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Coming off two consecutive losses, the Calgary Flames (5-5-1, 11 points) aim to stay on the good side of .500 when they host the Florida Panthers (4-2-3, 11 points) tonight at the Saddledome. The Flames have played pretty well in five of their last six games, but the Panthers have been rolling along and are quietly one of the better teams in hockey right now.

The puck drops at 7 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.

The Flames

Projected lines, via Daily Faceoff:

Gaudreau – Monahan – Lindholm
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Mangiapane – Ryan – Bennett
Lucic – Jankowski – Czarnik

Giordano – Brodie
Hanifin – Hamonic
Kylington – Andersson

David Rittich makes the start, backed up by Cam Talbot. Sam Bennett returns to the lineup, which bumps Tobias Rieder to the press box. He’ll be joined by Michael Stone, the other healthy scratch.

The good news is the Flames have largely looked like a pretty good hockey team for the last couple weeks, aside from the debacle in Los Angeles. On the other hand, they’re generally still making too many mistakes at key times and there are elements of their game that really need to be tidied up. Their opening periods are atrocious, for example. Winning more face-offs, generating chances and getting early leads would go a long way towards building some early momentum and confidence.

But let’s not bury some nice developments: while they’ve been a little too passive for my liking, the Flames’ penalty kill has been pretty damn effective so far this season. Percentage-wise, they’re third-best in the NHL. Goal-wise, they’re tied for ninth. Either way, the Flames take a lot of penalties – they’re tied with Vegas for most PKs – but they’ve been very effective and not letting that tendency sink them.

The Panthers

Projected lines, via Daily Faceoff:

Huberdeau – Barkov – Dadonov
Hoffman – Boyle – Connolly
Vatrano – Malgin – Hawryluk
Hunt – Acciari – Sceviour

Matheson – Stralman
Weegar – Pysyk
Yandle – Brown

Sergei Bobrovsky, the $10 million man, starts for the Panthers and is backed up by Samuel Montembeault. They’re not carrying any extra healthy bodies right now. Mike Matheson left Tuesday’s game with an injury while Aaron Ekblad missed the game with an illness. The Panthers have called up Riley Stillman, son of long-time Flames forward Cory, as support for tonight’s game.

The Panthers just find ways to get points all the time. They’ve gotten points in all but two games this season, and they have points in six consecutive games. They’re not the deepest team in the league, but they’re full of useful pieces and Joel Quenneville is a smart coach. They just find ways to stay in games and make life difficult for their opponents.

The Numbers

Flames Panthers
Wins 5 4
Points 11 11
Adjusted Corsi 51.6% 53.5%
Power Play 16.7% 20.0%
Penalty Kill 88.4% 87.0%

Injury Report

The Flames are without D Juuso Valimaki (ACL surgery).

The Panthers are missing D Aaron Eklbad (illness) and F Vincent Trocheck (lower body), though Ekblad might be back tonight.

When Last We Met

The Flames and Panthers split their two meetings last season, with the home side winning each game. Their last meeting in Florida was a shootout win for the Panthers so Calgary got a point.

Know Thy Enemy

Here are some key Twitter peeps to follow for tonight:


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