CALGARY, Alberta — Another game day, another team in the province of Alberta that likes to give the Chicago Blackhawks a headache.
The Blackhawks have fared well against the Calgary Flames in Chicago. In Calgary, it’s been a bit of a different story. Calgary’s won four of the last five against the Blackhawks at Scotiabank Saddledome, the one exception being that ridiculously great outing Ray Emery had here early last season.
So as the Blackhawks come in on a three-game winning streak, the Flames, coming off four days rest, would love to play spoiler. Executing that against a red-hot Blackhawks team, however, is easier said than done.
“We know how much offense they have,” defenseman Kris Russell said. “We’re just going to focus on what we’ll bring, and hopefully we get some chances.”
The Flames will face Blackhawks backup goaltender Antti Raanta, who makes his first NHL start tonight. Yes, Raanta has been learning the North American game on the fly during his brief stint here, but Calgary’s not going to assume he’ll be easy to get to because of that. The Flames’ new netminder Reto Berra, who will start tonight, comes from a similar background: all-European play until making his NHL debut against the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 3. Berra was calm and collected in that game, stopping 42 of the 44 shots the Blackhawks threw at him.
And Calgary has a lot of confidence in Berra.
“His size and competitiveness are really two of his big assets,” Calgary coach Bob Hartley said. “He loves pressure and he handles it very well. Right now he’s giving us a chance and that’s why he’s in there tonight.”
So the Flames will approach Raanta like they would any other NHL goaltender.
“You want to throw as much rubber at him as you can, get guys going to the net, maybe bump into him a little bit and screen him,” Russell said. “Goalies in this league, if they see it they’ll stop it. With a young guy, if you can get on him a little bit, you do. At the same time he’s here for a reason. We have to get pucks on him.”
The Flames will try to make life miserable for Raanta, and for the rest of his Blackhawks teammates tonight. They’ve made it their habit here the past few seasons, and the Blackhawks know they have to be aware.
“We know how they can play against us,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Let’s be respectful, because they can make some plays.”