Game Day Preview: Flames set off on challenging road trip

The Hockey News
Sean Monahan (Getty Images)
Sean Monahan (Getty Images)

Two games on tap tonight. One involves two teams off to great starts, the other features two teams who are playing well below expectations so far.

Calgary (3-0-2) at Anaheim (4-1-0)
The Flames are unexpectedly sweltering to start the season, winning three of five games and grabbing points in every game so far. The Ducks are off to another great start, just as they had last season en route to finishing with the second-best point total in the league. Their only loss so far came to the white-hot Colorado Avalanche in the season opener. Calgary’s advantage is on the power play, since the Ducks rank dead last in PP% and PK%.

The Flames may have capitalized on playing weak teams in the early going, but know they’re up against tougher competition as they head down to California. (Calgary Sun)

A more up-tempo game is partly why the Ducks have matched their best start in franchise history. (Los Angeles Times)

Player to Watch: Rookie Sean Monahan has the team lead with four goals and is playing with tons of confidence as he aims to prove he belongs with the big club. He has four more games to play before Calgary has to decide whether to send him down to junior or keep him on the roster and burn a year on his entry-level contract.

NY Rangers (1-4-0) at Washington (2-4-0)
These teams have some recent history together. The Caps and Blueshirts have squared off in four of the past five playoffs, with the Rangers winning the last two series, the most recent of which was just last season. But don’t give either team the edge, as both have been flat out of the gate and barely resemble their Stanley Cup contender mettle. The Rangers have especially sunk, as they have allowed the most goals-against per game in the league, a major reversal for a team that used to be identified as a shot blocking, defense-first squad backed by a world-class goaltender.

The Rangers have made roster moves early on and will make more if things don’t get back on track soon. (New York Post)

The Caps are focusing on having a good first period, which has been a sore spot early this season. (Washington Post)

Player to Watch: Benoit Pouliot has no points and is a minus-3 in his first five games as a Ranger. Look for him to break out of his slump against the Caps who are 27th in goals against per game. Pouliot can be counted on for a little less than a half-point-per-game – and he’s due.