For a team coming off a loss and with just one victory in five games, the Calgary Flames actually feel good about themselves heading into their Thursday clash against the Ottawa Senators.
The Flames arrive in Ottawa on the heels of collecting a win and overtime loss against the league-leading Toronto Maple Leafs. The Flames and Senators will meet four straight times, three games in Ottawa and then one in Calgary.
“Playing against the best team in the division so far and getting three out of four (points), that’s pretty good,” center Mikael Backlund said after the Flames dropped a 2-1 overtime clash Wednesday night. “The way we were playing going into this trip, we’ll take three out of four (points). Now we just have to reload, reset our mind and be prepared for Ottawa.”
Before heading to Ontario, the Flames took a 7-1 road thrashing at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, Calgary’s fourth defeat in five games.
The Flames were at peak performance during a 3-0 win over the Maple Leafs on Monday, and they were within two minutes of up another shutout win on Wednesday. Seconds after Elias Lindholm rang a shot off the post instead of sealing the deal with an empty-netter, the Leafs drew even and eventually won.
The disappointment was palpable for the Flames, but so were the positive reviews.
“We’ve got a game (Thursday) night, so that’s probably the best thing,” Calgary coach Geoff Ward said. “We’ll take the fact that (we) came to Toronto and took three of four points, and now we have to springboard this into another big game.”
With No. 1 Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom out of action due to injury, David Rittich stepped in and stopped 71 of 73 shots in Toronto and had a shutout streak of 137:56.
“Lots of positive things about what we did in those two games,” Rittich said. “The first one is we kind of showed every single team that we can play against everyone and we can beat them. That’s a good thing.”
The Senators, who sit last in the North Division, are coming off a pair of extra-time wins against the Montreal Canadiens, the latest a 5-4 shootout affair on Tuesday. Ottawa has won four of its past six.
“We’ve always been confident in our ability to try to keep things positive and optimistic,” said Senators winger Brady Tkachuk, who will face his older brother Matthew on Thursday. “We faced a lot of adversity to start the year and now we’ve learned from it. We’re still learning every single day.
“Some of these tight games, if we had them earlier in the season, we would have found ways to lose. Now we’re finding ways to win.”
It’s the young guns leading the way for Ottawa. The team’s past eight goals have been scored by players age 22 and under.
“The experience they’re getting of playing in overtime, but not only are they playing, they’re making plays and they’re starting to arrive in the league,” Senators coach D.J. Smith said.
Unfortunately for the Senators, though, veteran Derek Stepan sustained an upper-body injury Tuesday, and there was no word on whether he’d be fit to play against the Flames.
“I was on the ice and heard him in pain, so, no, it wasn’t good,” teammate Drake Batherson said. “You hate to see a guy leave like that, and he has meant a lot to me and Timmy (Stutzle). He has been great for us, speaking to us. He has been through it all. Hopefully, he’s back soon enough and up and running.”
Stepan, who had some early season struggles, had found his groove playing on a line with Batherson and Stutzle.
–Field Level Media