CALGARY – With eight of their next 10 games on the road, the Calgary Flames have a tough task ahead of them to get back into contention in the Northwest Division.
Mired in a four-game losing streak, the Flames (6-7-0) will have to find a way to turn around their misfortunes while away from the friendly confines of the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“We’ve got to take care of our business obviously and we’ve got to win games,” said head coach Brent Sutter after a Monday morning practice. “The points you lose now, you never get back. You don’t want to allow the field to get away from you. We have to keep up with the pace and try to accumulate as many points as we can.”
The Flames continue their current four-game road trip on Tuesday night (9:30 p.m. ET) in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche (7-5-1).
Calgary’s slump started against Colorado at home on Oct. 28 when the Flames let leads of 3-1 and 4-3 slip away en route to a disappointing 6-5 setback.
“We’ve been the most successful this year when we put pucks in deep and we play in the opposition’s end,” said forward Alex Tanguay, adding that the Flames had the Avs on the ropes only to let them back in the game. “We can’t let down. It came back to haunt us the first time we played them.”
During Calgary’s current losing skid, Tanguay said the players have maintained a positive attitude that they can turn things around.
“Our record doesn’t indicate the way we feel about our team,” he said. “It’s just time to go improve it. It’s still early in the year, but it’s a big road trip for us. We don’t want to get too far behind.
“It’s just up to us to go win some road games … and that way our fans will be happy when we get back.”
While they currently sit third last in the Western Conference standings, the Flames are only four points out of eighth spot and just eight points behind the front-running St. Louis Blues (9-1-2) and L.A. Kings (10-3-0).
“We still feel we’re in a position where we can be successful, but we have to turn it around quickly,” Tanguay said. “You don’t want to lose another two or three and then be really behind the eight ball just to get yourself in the playoffs.
“Now if we win two, three games we’re right back where we want to be and that’s the way we’re looking at it. We feel confident that we have the ability to do it.”
With a win in Denver followed by positive results against the struggling Phoenix Coyotes on Friday and the San Jose Sharks the next night, the Flames could vault themselves right back into contention.
“We have a lot of big games this week within our conference,” pointed out forward Matt Stajan. “There are a lot of points on the line. I think any team will tell you and we know in here, you don’t want to slip too far behind early in the year because catching up late in the year is tough to do as we saw last year.
“It takes a lot out of you trying to catch up, so we’ve got to make sure we’re keeping up right now and start climbing.”
As a member of Calgary’s top line with Tanguay and captain Jarome Iginla, Stajan said he believes the trio is on the verge of a breakout performance.
“There’s no doubt about it that we’re right there,” said Stajan, who has one goal and seven assists through 11 games. “We’re creating chances, we’re getting lots of shots. Hockey’s a funny game sometimes, but all we can control is working hard.
“We do have to bear down a bit in front of the net and make sure the puck hits the back of the net so that we can produce more than we have been. As a group collectively, we know we can score more goals.”
Tanguay agreed that the line definitely has the capability of producing much more offence.
“For us, it’s just getting hungrier around the net,” said Tanguay, who leads the trio with four goals and five helpers in 13 games, while Iginla has scored twice and set up six others. “We feel we have the ability and the skill level to score more goals. We have to bury our chances.”
Following a 2-1 road loss to the Minnesota Wild on Friday, Sutter gave his team credit for battling hard until the final buzzer.
“There were a lot of good things, but unfortunately we didn’t capitalize on some opportunities that we had,” he said, adding that his squad has to continue putting in a full 60-minute effort. “We have to consistently do it and as we’re doing it, really throw that will in there to want to succeed and we’ll be fine.”