by D'Arcy McGrath
October 31st, 2002
|Drury: Continues to lead the Flames in scoring.
The Calgary Flames will endeavor to do the unthinkable tonight … finally win a game at the Pengrowth Saddledome. They are, however, getting better. After dropping their first two home contests the Flames have managed points in each of their last three home games, including two ties and an overtime loss.
The Buffalo Sabres stormed out of the gates convincingly with two lopsided victories over the Islanders and Montreal. Since then, however, things have been somewhat of a struggle as the club has only one win to show in it's last seven games (1-4-2).
After tonight the Flames will host the Colorado Avalanche in the final home game on this four game stand, the team heads out on the road for a five game Eastern swing starting Monday on Long Island.
KEYS TO SUCCESS:
A 60 minute effort … The Flames have played some very solid hockey this season, at least for 50-some minutes of each hockey game. They need to finish the deal.
Monkey … The Flames need to shake this "haven't one at home" monicker before facing off against the Colorado Avalanche in the "return of Morris" game scheduled for Saturday.
Special Teams … The Flames have yet to win a game based on special teams this season … they've broken even, but have yet to lean on a game for a win. That has to change.
Iggy Pop … Jarome Iginla must break lose, tonight is as good a night as any.
BY THE NUMBERS:
Given recent seasons, it won't shock many that the Calgary Flames are having trouble keeping the puck out of their net … they've been defensively atrocious about as long as they've missed the playoffs. But it may surprise some to see the Flames creeping towards the league's top 10 in terms of goal scoring. The Flames sit 11th league wide with a goal per game average of 2.67. Tonight's visitors, the Sabres, sit 19th with 2.56 goals per game and a total of 23 on the season. This number sticks out when you consider the fact that they notched 11 in their first two games, and only 12 in their last seven. … The Sabres have the 9th best defensive record, yielding an average of 2.33 goals per game. The Flames sit well down the list at 24th, giving up 3.33 goals per game. … The Flames sit 23rd in penalty minutes taken per game, a fact that likely plays heavily in the team's ability to find a point in recent games. … The Flames powerplay sits 24th (13.2%), on notch ahead of Buffalo's (13.0%). The Flames penalty killing troops are ranked 23rd (80.4%), while Buffalo is ranked 25th (79.7%).
Calgary: The Flames are completely healthy,
Buffalo: The Sabres will be without Maxim Afinogenov who is out with a concussion.
WHO TO WATCH:
Calgary: Line combinations … the Flames may have Craig Conroy back with his star winger from last season, Jarome Iginla. Iginla continues to struggle, failing to get a spark when moved onto a line with Marc Savard. Greg Gilbert continues to search for a combination that will give him two scoring lines.
Buffalo: The Sabres have been led offensively by the resurgent Chris Gratton. Gratton, long considered a flop in most circles, put together a healthy run to conclude last season and appears to have continued it through the first month of this campaign.
"He's been working hard in practice, he looks good and he looks like he's got his confidence back. He's stepped up in practice, scoring goals left and right and executing the systems the way we want him to. He's regaining his confidence and feeling good about himself." – Greg Gilbert on reinserting Chuck Kobasew tonight.
"When I thought about (the obstruction crackdown), I just figured it would mean so many more penalties and guys weren't going to know what was going to be called. I never thought of the positives for the forwards, which are a big negative for the defencemen. There's nothing a defenceman can do because they can't skate as fast while going backwards as you can going forward. They have to turn at one point and at that point you can get that extra step." – Chris Clark on the new obstruction free NHL.
The Flames and Sabres split two games last season, with each club winning their home date. The Flames lost 5-2 in Buffalo on November 23rd, then turned back the Sabres by a score of 3-1 on January 3rd.
This is the one and only meeting between Buffalo and Calgary this season.