NHL scouts flock to L.A. as Flames further cement position in West cellar with 3-1 loss
After disastrous California road trip, Calgary’s status as a trade-deadline seller is gaining steam
The Calgary Flames will touch down at YYC today as the worst team in the National Hockey League’s Western Conference after a horrific three-game California road trip.
The latest calamity in the sun came Monday night at the Staples Center with a 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings – a game pretty much considered a “must win” for the Flames to hold out any hope of a playoff berth.
With three straight defeats, the Flames sit six points out of the eighth-and-final playoff spot in the West with a log-jam of six teams in front of them.
“We’ve fallen way back,” muttered captain Jarome Iginla in the quiet of the Calgary dressing room. “I can understand that fans will be upset. We’re upset. We’re in last place. It’s unacceptable.
“Nobody will give up in this room. It’s our responsibility to get ready to play the next one and get ready to win. But no, we understand that Calgary Flames fans would be upset. They have a lot of passion, and they should be. We’re not winning games.”
And so the Flames return home to the chill with the firm classification of sellers instead of buyers as the April 3 trade deadline fast approaches.
Iginla, Miikka Kiprusoff, Jay Bouwmeester, Cory Sarich – the rumour mill will no doubt run wild for the next 23 days with all kinds of speculation involving a gaggle of Flames veterans.
Let the bidding begin.
Teams with scouts on hand Monday at the Staples Center included Vancouver, the New York Rangers, Boston (2), Anaheim, Nashville, Buffalo, Colorado, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay.
The bird dogs witnessed the Flames lose their third straight, this time with star goaltender in Kiprusoff stapled to the bench a week after his return from a knee injury.
The quiet Finn politely declined an interview request after the pre-game skate.
“He’s done a great job,” MacDonald said after the game of the usual starting goaltender. “In the last couple of games, there’s not much he could have done. It’s just the way things are going.
“You know what? It’s good to give him a break. That’s my job. He’s one of the top goaltenders in this league. When I get an opportunity, I’ve got to try to give the team a chance to win and go forward.”
For the first five minutes Monday, the Flames prevented the Kings from getting a single shot. Then Mark Giordano landed in the penalty box for hooking at 5:03.
With a beautiful pass through the box, defenceman Slava Voynov found Dustin Brown all alone on the left post. The captain batted it into the open cage for a 1-0 lead.
The Kings made it 2-0 when defenceman Jake Muzzin pounced on a Calgary giveaway at the blueline and fed Jarret Stoll in the high slot.
The former Edmonton Oiler rifled a snap shot high glove that popped the water bottle at 9:40 of the first period.
Give MacDonald credit. The NHL journeyman kept his team in it through an uninspiring middle frame for the travellers.
His best save came on a deft poke-check in front of Anze Kopitar. But he also made a blocker stop on Justin Williams and kicked out the right pad on a scorching hot Jeff Carter to prevent the Kings from staking out a 3-0 lead.
In the third period, Jonathan Quick positively sparkled in the Los Angeles net with the Flames pressing in wave after wave.
Mikael Backlund broke the shutout bid at 14:38 with a wrist shot that fluttered through five-hole. But Brown iced the victory for the Kings with an empty-netter with just 27 seconds on the clock and MacDonald on the bench for the extra attacker.
“We just got out-competed,” Iginla said. “We got out-played.
“We didn’t play a full game in any of the three on this trip. We look at ourselves. We all want to be in the playoffs, but every team wants to. Wherever you go, wherever you play, every team wants to win.
“And we’re not getting it done.”
They’re running out of time to get it done.
“I think we were going pretty good before we came on this road trip,” Iginla said. “We were on the way up, and we came on it, and we got out-battled...
“This is definitely a big step in the wrong direction.”
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