The Calgary Flames visit Staples Center for the first of two visits this season, bringing with them some acrimonious residue from a rivalry that soured last season during the Doughty-Tkachuk Incident.
Matthew Tkachuk’s March 19 elbow on Drew Doughty, which resulted in a two-game suspension, came with two additional head-to-head meetings remaining on the schedule. The first, played at the Scotiabank Saddledome on March 29, resulted in a pre-game summit at center ice, a Jarome Iginla-Deryk Engelland bout as part of Iginla’s Gordie Howe Hat Trick, and a 4-1 Los Angeles victory. The second was much less memorable: a 4-1 April 6 L.A. defeat at Staples Center during the final throes of the bottomed-out 2016-17 season.
Last year’s incident is not expected to be rehashed as the rivalry resumes Wednesday night. If the game gets heated, it won’t be because of any premeditation.
“No, I don’t think there’s any message-sending at all,” John Stevens said. “I think it’s a team in our division, and we have to get established against a team in our division. I think the reason that there’s some ill will with the two teams is because we’re trying to beat each other, and they’ve really improved as a hockey team.”
“They’ve got some really talented guys, they’ve got some grit and toughness in their lineup, and just like what we talked about with Anaheim and San Jose, we’re standing in each other’s way, so I look at it more as we’ve got to get established in the division against a division opponent at home.”
The Kings passed an early divisional test on Saturday with a thorough 4-1 victory in San Jose. Meanwhile, the Flames relied on Jobu – the cinematic voodoo figurine popularized by the character Pedro Cerrano in Major League – in exorcising their Honda Center demons with a 2-0 win over the Ducks Monday night that put an abrupt end to a 29-game losing streak in Anaheim dating back to January 29, 2004.
“We did it! We did it!”
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) October 10, 2017
Flames coach Glen Gulutzan spoke with Kristen Odland of the Calgary Herald and NHL.com Kings correspondent Dan Greenspan about Jobu; expect articles on those sites in advance of Wednesday’s game.
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to follow Calgary’s morning skate tomorrow because we are all on JAGR WATCH: 2017. Will Jaromir or will Jaromir not make his 2017-18 debut at Staples Center?
“I’ll let you guys know tomorrow,” Flames coach Glen Gulutzan said. “We have a plan, though, of what we want to do, so I’ll let you guys know in the morning.”
The NHL’s all-time leader in game-winning and overtime goals, Jagr ended an overtime session by stuffing a Marek Zidlicky feed past Ben Scrivens early in the 2013-14 season for a 2-1 New Jersey win. He also had success in Los Angeles in his only season in the Western Conference one year prior, scoring twice at Staples Center as part of a 5-2 Dallas win on March 7, and followed that up two weeks later by scoring the game-winner in a 2-0 Stars victory.
Gulutzan confirmed that Mike Smith will start in net for the visitors, and when asked about what he has taken from a small sample size of the Kings’ play, shared an interesting bit about pace that isn’t too different from some of the words shared on this page in recent years.
“It looks like to me they’re playing a lot quicker. We were discussing that as a coaching group. All these games look quicker that we were watching,” Gulutzan said. “It was almost like, ‘did they put it a little faster on our TVs?’ To me, it looks like they’ve got a lot of pace to their game, and to me, I thought they always did. They play a real direct, north-south game, and when they got that on, you don’t need the fastest players to be fast if you support the puck well and you’re moving it forward. I always thought they’re hard to play against.”