NHL: Flames look to avoid letdown vs. West-worst Blackhawks
The way the Calgary Flames see it, they’ve turned a corner and are looking like the team they were supposed to be.
Calgary’s home clash with the cellar-dwelling Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday is an opportunity to prove it.
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The Flames, who have won two straight games, have often been guilty of looking past underdog clubs, and a Blackhawks team at the bottom of the Western Conference is the kind of team they could be caught looking past.
Therefore, the Flames know they must continue to build on their last two outings, a convincing win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday and Monday’s overtime victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“Around this time of year, everyone starts to understand how we need to play and what our identity is,” forward Nazem Kadri said. “It’s midseason for a reason. You kind of have to fight the dog days of an 82-game schedule, but this is the time where you try to dial in the detail.”
Despite requiring overtime to beat the Blue Jackets, the Flames were unquestionably the better side, proven by the shot-clock that read 49-25 in their favor.
The win came at a cost. Defenseman Chris Tanev is sidelined after suffering a shoulder injury. It’s not the shoulder that required offseason surgery.
“If everything goes well, we’ll get him back after the (All-Star) break,” coach Darryl Sutter said. “If there’s any blessing in having a long break, that’s it, right?”
Whether the Flames have Jacob Markstrom or Dan Vladar in goal was not announced, but Vladar is on a personal roll. He has compiled a 9-0-3 record in his last 12 starts, one shy of the franchise record for most games without a regulation-time loss.
The Blackhawks arrive on the heels of a 5-2 loss in Vancouver to start their three-game road trip. The game was tied midway through the third period, despite Vancouver outshooting Chicago by a 48-14 margin when the final buzzer sounded.
“Just started slow and didn’t seem to have our legs, and a little sloppy all over the ice,” defenseman Seth Jones said. “If it wasn’t for (goaltender Petr) Mrazek, it could have really got out of hand.”
Being outshot with regularity is nothing new to the Blackhawks, but they have been held to fewer than 20 shots on goal in three consecutive outings. It is an issue they must address against a Calgary team is tied for the league lead in shots on goal and second-best in fewest shots surrendered.
“I think we just need a little more jam (collectively), to start maybe be a little more physical, get us into it that way,” forward Sam Lafferty said. “And I think the shots will come from there.”
After winning six of seven games, including a home clash with the Flames earlier this month amidst a dismal season, the Blackhawks have lost two straight outings. The Vancouver defeat came with an extra dose of disappointment, since the Blackhawks surprisingly held a pair of leads before the Canucks mounted a comeback and pulled away.
Chicago forward Luke Philp made his NHL debut in Vancouver, registering no shots on goal and one hit in 8:45 of action. Philp, who is from the city of Canmore — a mountain-town an hour drive west of Calgary — spent three years in the Flames organization.
–Field Level Media
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