Jarome Iginla

Flames will need to get off to a quick start to be successful

With the 2011-12 season rapidly approaching, the gang at PHT decided to take a look at all 30 NHL teams’ schedules. Each team’s highs and lows will be studied in detail to give you an idea of what the future might hold for each squad.

Note: Mileage figures via On the Forecheck’s “Super Schedule.”

Calgary Flames schedule analysis

Total mileage: 49,104 (seventh highest total in NHL and second most in the Northwest Division)

Back-to-back games: 10

Toughest stretches

Any team that is faced with over 49,000 miles on their schedule will have tough stretches to deal with throughout the season. But for the Flames, there’s no question that the span between December 13 and January 5 will be the stiffest of tests. Over the course of three weeks, the Flames will play 11 of 13 games away from the Saddledome. The span begins with a four game road trip that will take the Flames all the way to Florida. They return for a pair of games before they hit the road again for a season-long seven game road trip. The latter trip includes games against Vancouver, Nashville, and Washington—and comes to a conclusion against the defending Stanley Cup champs in Boston. Good luck with that.

Easiest periods

There are two stretches of games that the Flames will need to take advantage of if they want to secure one of the cherished playoffs spots at the end of the season. Starting in mid-October and spanning until November 1 is Calgary’s longest homestand of the season. The consecutive games feature a game against the Oilers, Rangers, Predators, Avalanche, Blues, and Canucks. If they can earn 10 out of 12 points during the homestand, it should help the team set the right tone for the season.

Later in the season, the Flames will enjoy a nine game span of games that feature seven at home. From February 21 to March 9, Calgary only plays two road games (against the Ducks and Coyotes). They’ll attempt to make the most of their homestand with winnable games against the Coyotes, Stars, Blues and Jets.

Overall outlook

In a division that is traditionally faced with tough travel schedules, the Flames have the second most miles to travel this year. On the positive side, the Flames are either home for multiple dates or on the road for a few games. It can kill a team to return home (or head out on the road) for a single game before returning.

Calgary absolutely has to take advantage of their season-long six game homestand at the beginning of the season. The old cliché is that every game counts—although it can be harder to bring the same intensity in October as in March. The Flames will need to bring their A-game and stockpile some points or they’ll be facing an uphill climb for the rest of the season.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.

Islanders believe Boyle should be suspended for hit before OT goal

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Thomas Hickey is involved in a controversial hit, yet the greater debate may revolve around the one he received rather than the one he delivered.

In the second period, the New York Islanders defenseman connected for a thunderous hit on Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin, which sidelined Drouin for a chunk of Game 3.

Many believe that hit was legal:

The Islanders are upset about the Brian Boyle hit on Hickey in overtime, which came moments before Boyle scored the game-winning goal. You can see the full sequence here, with the hit happening around the 50-second mark:

Islanders head coach Jack Capuano believes that it was a suspension-worthy hit.

You’re not going to believe this, but the Lightning disagree.

Boyle clearly didn’t receive a penalty on that sequence, yet one would imagine that the league will at least take a look at that hit.

Lightning take dramatic OT win vs. Islanders, go up 2-1 in series

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Brian Boyle was part of the fight before Game 3 even started … and then he ended it in overtime.

In a Tampa Bay Lightning win in which they just kept rolling with the New York Islanders’ punches, it only seems fitting that Boyle battled to land a big hit and then score the clinching goal for a 5-4 overtime victory.

This gives the Lightning a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4.

Also fitting? Boyle landed a big hit on Thomas Hickey, the guy who sidelined Jonathan Drouin for a chunk of this contest.

That sequence prompted a brief goal review, but it ultimately stood:

(Was that Boyle hit on Hickey dirty, by the way?)

Drama was in the air from the beginning, yet Drouin really stole the show when he came back from what some believe was a concussion to assist on Nikita Kucherov‘s last-minute goal, which sent the game to overtime.

In some ways, this win feels like a microcosm of the Lightning’s season. They keep getting hit in the mouth with injuries and near-injuries, yet they just won’t stay down.

The Islanders saw three leads disappear in this contest, but one would think that they won’t roll over, either.