Flames gear up for Anaheim’s powerful power play
Ducks clicking at a prolific 29.2% rate and Calgary will have to figure out a way to stop them
The bad news — the Anaheim Ducks own the most potent power-play unit in the National Hockey League.
The good news — the Ducks don’t draw very many penalties. In fact, only the Boston Bruins have had fewer chances with the man advantage.
Nevertheless, the Calgary Flames are quite rightly braced.
“Their power play is deadly,” Chris Butler said of the Ducks’ flock that is clicking 29.2 per cent of the time. “They’ve got a core of forwards that are big and play the game with a tonne of skill — and they play hard. Those are guys we can’t afford to give any space to.
“When they have time, players like Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne — that guy is still playing extremely well — are going to make plays and they’re going to make you pay. They love hanging onto pucks and making plays in the offensive zone.”
The Ducks don’t have a single soul among the NHL’s top 30 power-play point-getters, meaning that their attack must be diversified. So be wary.
Alleviating matters somewhat is the Flames’ manners. Only the Nashville Predators average fewer penalty minutes.
So that will help to minimize the hosts’ kicks.
Additionally, the Flames’ penalty killers, ranked 21st, have been perfect over the past three games.
“Good controlled pressure (is key),” Butler said. “I think we did a really good job (Wednesday against San Jose) of forcing their guys when they had the puck in tough areas. At certain times, you are going to have to sit back and not be too aggressive because skilled players will make those plays.”
No surprise, Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start Friday at the Honda Center.
The goalie’s return to action Wednesday had been a (32-save) success in what turned out to be his 300th win in Flames silks.
“I went to see him after the game — he had zero pain, he felt great,” said coach Bob Hartley. “(Thursday) we are going to sit with him on the plane and we’re going to see how he feels . . . but the fact is, we have Joey MacDonald. We feel very fortunate. We have two goalies that can win games, that can play, that can contribute to the team’s success. That’s a good feeling.”
This season, MacDonald is 3-3-1, with a 3.04 goals-against average and a .899 save percentage.
Kiprusoff is 3-3-2 (2.95, .886). The Finn is 12-9-4 lifetime versus the Ducks.
The time was right for Blake Comeau to break out of his slump.
Of his 62 goals, 21 have arrived in March — by far his most productive month (next best is December’s 13) — including the game-winner against the San Jose Sharks.
“The way he was skating, the way he was going to the net, I had a good feeling,” said coach Bob Hartley. “(Assistant) Marty Gelinas on the bench, he said, ‘Comes is flying.’ That certainly helped me, making my decision (to put him on a scoring line) a little easier.”
Comeau’s goal — a perfect wrister as he hustled down the right wing — is a feel-good story for the coach.
“You see him every morning, 15 or 20 minutes (before practice), he’s shooting on the goalies,” said Hartley. “That was an NHL shot, inside post. It couldn’t happen to a better guy at a better time, because, yes, he was squeezing that graphite stick — the juice was coming out of that stick. Maybe it’s the start of a good thing.”
Butler was happy to have provided the helper on the dryspell-ending tally.
“It’s great to see him get rewarded,” said Butler. “His skating has been awesome the last handful of games. He’s been creating chances for us with his feet. He’s been taking pucks wide, throwing pucks on net. He’s been great on the penalty kill. It’s just a nice monkey off his back to get that goal, (which may) allow him to play a little bit looser. He’s got great skills and I think those will come to light.”
ROOTIN’ TOOTIN’ GOOD TIME
The Calgary Stampede, as part of a Travel Alberta promotion, is going to be selling itself Saturday before the Flames’ game at the Staples Center. On tap are country music, line dancing and, of course, a mechanical bull.
“California has always been a target market for the Calgary Stampede,” said Deanne Carson, Stampede vice-president, marketing and external relations. “Partnering with Travel Alberta really shows our visitors the vast array of things to do in Alberta — everything from our Calgary Stampede to world-class golf.”
Follow Scott Cruickshank on Twitter/CruickshankCH
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