The Calgary Flames, who are facing elimination Wednesday night in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series against the Ducks, will make two lineup changes in hopes of prolonging the teams’ best-of-seven postseason series.
Coach Glen Gulutzan said he will insert forwards Curtis Lazar and Freddie Hamilton into his lineup and will scratch Matt Stajan and Lance Bouma. However, he said he will again have Brian Elliott start in goal, despite Elliott’s shaky performance in the Ducks’ 5-4 overtime victory on Monday. Gulutzan might not have much of a choice, really, because backup Chad Johnson has been plagued by a lower-body injury and likely isn’t ready to start.
Gulutzan said the reason for his changes up front were simple. “It’s an energy thing. We’re down three. These two players have played pretty well in the games that they’ve come in. They’ve provided good energy, speed, with Curtis a right shot for draws,” he said after his team’s morning skate Wednesday at the Scotiabank Saddledome. “And mentally, I think it’s just change. These are guys that are not down, 3-0, in the series. They’re trying to stay in the lineup each and every night so it’s a change for everybody.”
Gulutzan also said the goaltending choice was a painstaking process. “Every decision was scrutinized and analyzed and looked over and talked about with everybody in the organization, looking at game tape and all the coaches,” he said. “We looked at everything as tough as we could and made our decision.”
His team’s mood, which was deflated—and understandably so—after the Ducks erased the Flames’ 4-1 lead—had improved by Tuesday and he said it was better on Wednesday partly because players feel they’ve been close to winning after losing the first three games by one goal.
“We need to get our swagger back and come in and put the same game on the table for a longer period of time,” he said.
Forward Troy Brouwer, who will skate alongside Hamilton and Lazar on the Flames’ revamped fourth line, rebuffed a question about whether the Flames would be able to say they had laid a good foundation for the future no matter the outcome Wednesday night.
“We still want to win. And it doesn’t matter where we are in the series right now. We still want to win the series,” said Brouwer, a member of the Chicago Blackhawks’ 2010 Stanley Cup championship team. “We’re not looking to write off any seasons as far as a learning experience. We put ourselves in the playoffs and we expect to win, and that’s the mentality. Only one team can win and you always learn and evolve and that’s one thing we’re doing right now.”
Gulutzan also said he’s not planning to deliver an inspirational, win-one-for-the-Gipper pregame speech. “There’s no need for a sermon from a coach before the game,” he said. “This is a players’ game.”