Good afternoon from Calgary, Insiders. The Kings took the ice at 11:30 a.m. for an optional skate, and while there were no line rushes that offered a firm look at the lineup, there were a few hints at who will take the ice when the Kings face the Flames in an important late-season game.
-As far as those hints, don’t expect changes from Thursday’s game. Jonathan Quick did not participate in the morning skate, but it would be a bit of a leap to expect Ben Bishop to start the first half of the back-to-back after Quick shut out Buffalo on Thursday. Bishop did skate and remained on the ice for a little bit of extra work, though not as long as Brayden McNabb or Jordan Nolan remained on the ice. Kevin Gravel took the first loop alongside Alec Martinez, so that pairing looks like it will remain intact.
-Gravel spoke about his pairing’s ability to contain the rush in Thursday’s win. “I think a big thing is keeping a strong gap … and then right from the start, maybe right from your offensive blue line, then the forward doesn’t really have a lot of room to do much throughout the neutral zone and then going into your zone. The key is to try to end it before you get to your zone,” he said. “Obviously it doesn’t happen every time, but the better the gap is without getting yourself into trouble, the harder it makes it on that forward to be able to give him a little bit of freedom.”
-Jarome Iginla is back in Calgary, so there were naturally questions about reconnecting with Darryl Sutter and his role within Los Angeles’ schemes. “They’re a very close group, and that’s what winning does, and they’ve been through a lot of battles and stuff together, and so it is nice to come in and just try to fit in and learn how they operate and try to find out where I can help and this time of year, I think they seem to always, every year, get better and better,” he said. “And the type of team they have, they’re very used to one-goal games, great goaltending, defense. They play defense first out and then grind it, and I like the grinding idea, and then playing down low with the guys and trying to go to the net and those type of things. But yeah, you can see that it’s a confidence but at the same time guys work hard and you can see their preparation and stuff and I think everybody in here believes that we can make it.”
-Matt Greene is on this trip. Darryl Sutter denied that he’s on the trip so he can give a lift to the team, saying, “no, he’s available to play,” but you and I both know not to read anything into that. Despite his injury – he hasn’t played since January 16 because of back and groin issues, according to Sutter – he remains a valued member of the team’s leadership core and his presence is a welcomed positive for the group on this important two-game swing.
-Calgary will have some lineup decisions to make tonight. Michael Ferland is ill, per Glen Gulutzan, and whether or not he plays tonight will be decided come game time. Kris Versteeg took a maintenance morning but could slot back alongside Matt Stajan and Troy Brouwer, while Brian Elliott, who boasts a personal 10-game winning streak, will start in net. Deeper previews can be found courtesy of Pat Steinberg and Kristen Odland, but expect a Flames rotation of Tkachuk-Backlund-Frolik, Gaudreau-Monahan-Chiasson, Versteeg-Stajan-Brouwer and Lazar-Bennett-Bouma up front, and Giordano-Hamilton, Brodie-Stone and Bartkowski-Engelland on the back end. If Ferland doesn’t play, Curtis Lazar is expected to make his Calgary debut after his deadline day trade from Ottawa.
-If the socks they wore at the pre-game skate serve as an indication, we’re probably seeing the Flames’ vintage jerseys tonight, and those sweaters are absolute beauties. For old time’s sake: