by Marc Ciampa
November 7th, 2002
|McLennan: Flames stopper has already equaled Mike Vernon's win total from last season.
The Calgary Flames (5-3-3-2; 2nd Northwest Division) come into tonight’s game having gained points in nine of their last ten games and hope to continue what has thus far been a successful road trip. Tonight’s opponent, the New York Rangers (5-8-2-0; 5th Atlantic Division) are coming off a huge victory on Tuesday over the Edmonton Oilers as they try to find their stride after their annual off-season summer spending spree.
The Rangers and Flames reside in very different markets in the NHL but have one thing in common – the failure to make the playoffs over the last number of years and a growing impatience by the public waiting for them to succeed. Calgary hasn’t seen a playoff round since 1996 while the Rangers have missed out on the postseason dance since 1997.
The Flames are at a crucial point on their current five-game road trip, after going 2-0-0-0 in their first two games. Tonight’s game vs. the Rangers and the upcoming two games against the Thrashers and Panthers are all teams that Calgary should beat. Traditionally, though, the club has had problems winning games such as these but coming through this time would go a long way in solidifying their position in the Western Conference.
KEYS TO SUCCESS:
- Continue playing a team game. The main reason the Flames are unbeaten in four is because they’ve played solidly at all positions. That needs to continue.
- Try to avoid letdowns. Against both the Islanders and Devils, the Flames had a stretch of 15 minutes or so where they let the opponent take the play to them. On Long Island it was the second, in New Jersey it was the third. Against the Rangers a letdown might cost them the game, as the Oilers saw early in Tuesday’s game.
- Top-notch goaltending. Jamie McLennan has provided it so far on this road trip. Can he keep it up?
BY THE NUMBERS:
Calgary continues to be one of the more disciplined teams in the league, ranking ninth lowest in the league having been shorthanded only 64 times (4.9 times per game). At the other end of the spectrum is the New York Rangers who have been shorthanded a league-worst 94 times. The Flames have also had the sixth-most powerplay opportunities in the NHL (74), good for 5.7 per game. Rangers and Flames penalty killing matches up very evenly, with New York at 81.9% and Calgary at 82.8%. On the powerplay, the Flames are 13.0% but a pitiful 6.0% on the road. The Rangers home penalty killing is third worst in the league at 75.5%… Despite the terrible road powerplay, the Flames are off to one of their best starts away from the Saddledome (4-1-0-0)… Former Flame Ronald Petrovicky, claimed on waivers by the Rangers just over a month ago, has four points (1 goal, 3 assists) in 10 games so far this season.
Calgary: Roman Turek (broken finger) is out. Craig Conroy (badly bruised ankle) and Jamie Wright are questionable.
NY Rangers: Bobby Holik (hip flexor) is questionable. Radek Dvorak (knee), Richard Lintner (knee) and Dave Karpa (elbow) are all doubtful.
WHO TO WATCH:
Calgary: Chris Drury has come up huge so far on this road trip, with the winning goal on Long Island and in New Jersey. The team is still waiting for Jarome Iginla to start lighting the league on fire. Chris Drury’s emergence as the offensive leader of this club early on in the season could help take some pressure of him. Rob Niedermayer has three points in his last two games and four points in his last five and is finally starting to play the way Craig Button hoped he would after acquiring him over a year ago. It will be interesting to see if he can sustain that level of play or if his disappears, reverting back to his former self.
NY Rangers: Eric Lindros was benched on the weekend for substandard play and responded with an average night last game. He might emerge from his shell this evening and wreak some havoc on Jamie McLennan. Tom Poti is fitting in well in New York, putting up career numbers with 13 points in 15 games.
"I'm trying to build some confidence in the team. We'll try and hold the fort until Roman (Turek) comes back and go from there. It's a new organization, you've got all new d-men and everything, so it takes a bit of an adjustment to get to know each other. A good road trip, at least a good start, is going to help.".– Flames backup goaltender Jamie McLennan, who has done well on the road trip so far, registering two wins in two starts.
"When we've had hard times in the past, sometimes it's because we've haven't played well and other times it's because things haven't gone our way. I think this time it's because things aren't going our way. When things did go our way [Tuesday] night, you saw what happened."—Rangers forward Petr Nedved, who figures the Rangers should just keep doing what they’re doing and the results will come. His club won 5-2 over Edmonton Tuesday despite being outshot 41-23.
"You get disappointed, but I'm never angry at the guys. If I'm angry, I'm not angry at them; I'm angry at what they did. There's a difference. I respect all the guys, and if I do get angry at them, I'm telling them that: 'I'm angry at you.' I'll let them know. That's the best way to be."—Rangers head coach Bryan Trottier letting it be known that Eric Lindros is not in his doghouse.
The Flames and Rangers meet again in a week’s time, November 14th in Calgary.