PREVIEW: Sputtering Calgary Flames seek spark vs. Senators

By Field Level Media
Feb 25, 2021; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators right wing Connor Brown (28) tries to recover the puck on a rebound from Calgary Flames goalie Artyom Zagidulin (50) in the third period at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Rock bottom is not on the Calgary Flames’ itinerary for their current six-game road trip, but they appear to have taken a nasty detour in that direction.

After yet another one-sided loss — a 6-1 defeat at the hands of the last-place Ottawa Senators on Thursday — the Flames are searching to rebound in the rematch on Saturday afternoon. The Flames are mired in a 1-4-1 swoon in which they’ve been outscored by a 22-8 margin.

Naturally, the team’s struggles have put coach Geoff Ward on the hot seat, but the players know they are culpable for their woes.

“It’s on us. It’s on the players. We’ve got to be better,” forward Milan Lucic said. “Back at it Saturday afternoon, but it’s not a good feeling right now.

“I don’t think it’s about Xs and Os. It’s about us coming together as a group and playing together and for each other. This one’s on the players. The coaching staff hasn’t changed from last year and that was one of our strong points when we started to move in the right direction, the ability to play as a five-man unit. We have to find that again and it’s up to the players, no one else.”

The Flames and Senators are in the midst of four consecutive head-to-head games and five meetings in a span of six games. Having arrived after a couple of strong outings in Toronto, the Flames hoped to build on their performances. Instead, they were whitewashed by an Ottawa team that’s won three straight games for the first time this season.

As disappointing as the loss was to Calgary’s psyche, the manner in which the Flames fell apart while facing a 4-1 deficit is a major concern. Instead of providing a concerted push, they withered.

“We’ve been talking so much about starts and chasing the game. When something like this happens, the natural reaction is to say, ‘Here we go again.’ It makes it more difficult, especially the deeper the hole gets,” Ward said.

“It doesn’t matter when goals are scored or what’s going on, you’ve got to keep battling and find ways to get traction back in the hockey game. If things are going well and you get scored on, you certainly want to come back the next shift.”

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The Senators, who won only two of their first 15 games (2-12-1), possess a confidence the Flames can only dream about these days.

“Everyone understands what their role is and what they have to do, and guys are excited to come to the rink,” Ottawa coach D.J. Smith said. “You can see them having fun on the bench. It wasn’t much fun that first little bit, but they’re having fun (now) and when you’re having fun, things go your way.”

The Senators have won five of their last seven outings.

“We’ve said for a while now we’ve been really happy with the way our game has been coming along,” defenseman Thomas Chabot said. “A couple of games didn’t go our way and we had some unlucky bounces. To get some wins is good for everyone.”

As dispirited as the Flames are right now, the Senators expect to see a much better Calgary team the next time they meet.

“We know they’re going to be coming hard,” Chabot said. “They’re a good team, but we have to enjoy that win and have a good practice and get ready for the next game.”

Related: NHL games today – Complete TV schedule

–Field Level Media

Sports deaths in 2021

Howard Schnellenberger (Miami Hurricanes Head Coach)

Miami, FL – Coach Howard Schnellenberger of the University of Miami Hurricanes during a game against the Penn State Nittany Lions in November 1981 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)

Schnellenberger died on March 27th, 2021. He was 87.

Elgin Baylor (Los Angeles Lakers)

New York, NY — Los Angeles Lakers forward Elgin Baylor (22) shoots against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Baylor died of natural causes on March 22, 2021. He was 86.

'Marvelous' Marvin Hagler (Boxer)

Las Vegas, NV – John Mugabi and Marvin Hagler fight for the WBA, WBC, and IBF Middleweight titles on March 10, 1986 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hagler won the fight with an 11th round knockout. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Hagler died unexpectedly on March 13. He was 66.

Rheal Cormier (MLB Pitcher)

San Francisco, CA – Pitcher Rheal Cormier #37 of the Philadelphia Phillies delivers against the San Francisco Giants during the MLB game at Pac Bell Park on August 9, 2003 in San Francisco, California. The Phillies won 8-6. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Cormier died on March 8th. He was 53.

Mark Pavelich (1980 USA Olympic Hockey Team)

Lake Placid, NY – The USA Team celebrates their 4-3 victory over Russia in the semi-final of the Ice Hockey event at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, USA. The game was dubbed “The Miracle on Ice”. The USA went on to win the gold medal by defeat. (Getty Images)

Pavelich died on March 5th. He was 63.

Joe Altobelli (MLB Manager)

Los Angeles, CA – San Francisco Giants manager Joe Altobelli argues with an umpire during the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Darryl Norenberg-USA TODAY Sports

Altobelli died on March 3rd. He was 88.

Irv Cross (Broadcaster/NFL Defensive Back)

Pasadena, CA, USA – CBS broadcaster Irv Cross (left) interviews NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Cross died on February 28th. He was 81.

Vincent Jackson (NFL Wide Receiver)

Tampa, FL – Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson (83) is introduced as he runs out of the tunnel before the game against the Tennessee Titans at Raymond James Stadium on September 13, 2015. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jackson died on February 15th. He was 38.

Marty Schottenheimer (NFL Head Coach)

St. Louis, MO – Kansas City Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer on the sidelines against the New York Jets at Busch Stadium during the 1991 preseason. Credit: Herb Weitman-USA TODAY NETWORK

Schottenheimer died on February 8th. He was 77.

Pedro Gomez (MLB Reporter)

MESA, AZ – Perdo Gomez of ESPN stands in the stands prior to the game between the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants at Hohokam Stadium on March 3, 2015 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)

Gomez died on February 7th. He was 58.

Leon Spinks (Boxer)

Heavyweight champion Leon Spinks, works out at the Fifth Street Gym in Miami on Jan. 13, 1987. (photo by Tim Chapman)

Spinks died on February 5th. He was 67.

John Chaney (Temple Owls)

LANDOVER, MD – Head coach John Chaney of the Temple Owls looks on from the bench against the Georgetown Hoyas during an NCAA College basketball game circa 1995 at the US Airways Arena in Landover, Maryland. Chaney coached at Temple from 1982-2006. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Chaney died on January 29th. He was 89.

George Armstrong (Toronto Maple Leafs)

TORONTO, ON – Former Leafs Captain George Armstrong waves to the crowd beside (L-R) Red Kelly and David Keon during a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Leafs 64′ Stancley Cup before action between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Vancouver Canucks during NHL action at the Air Canada Centre February 8, 2013 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

Armstrong died on January 24th. He was 90.

Hawthorne Wingo (New York Knicks)

Atlanta, GA – New York Knicks forward Hawthorne Wingo (43) in action against the Atlanta Hawks at the Omni. Mandatory Credit: Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Wingo died on January 23rd. He was 73.

Hank Aaron (Atlanta Braves)

Atlanta, GA, – Atlanta Braves outfielder Hank Aaron (44) celebrates after breaking the all-time career home run record previously held by Babe Ruth at Fulton County Stadium against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Credit: Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron died on January 22nd. He was 86.

Ted Thompson (Green Bay Packers)

Arlington, TX – Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy (left) and general manager Ted Thompson after the Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Thompson died on January 20th. He was 68.

Don Sutton (MLB Pitcher)

PITTSBURGH, PA – Pitcher Don Sutton of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during a Major League Baseball game at Three Rivers Stadium in 1977 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

Sutton died on January 18th. He was 75.

Tommy Lasorda (Los Angeles Dodgers)

Los Angeles, CA – Los Angeles Dodgers former manager Tommy Lasorda in attendance as the Los Angeles Dodgers face off against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles CA. Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Copyright u00a9 2007 Gary A. Vasquez

Lasorda died January 7th. He was 93.

John Muckler (Edmonton Oilers)

BOSTON, MA – Glen Sather head coach and assistant coach John Muckler of the Edmonton Oilers direct action from behind bench against the Boston Bruins at Boston Garden. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Muckler died on January 4th. He was 86.

Paul Westphal (NBA Head Coach)

PHOENIX, AZ – As part of their 50th season celebration the Phoenix Suns honor former coach Paul Westphal before the game against the Houston Rockets on January 12, 2018 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

Westphal died on January 2nd. He was 70.

Floyd Little (Denver Broncos)

CINCINNATI, OH – Running back Floyd Little #44 of the Denver Broncos runs upfield during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Riverfront Stadium on October 8, 1972 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bengals defeated the Broncos 21-10. (Photo by Clifton Boutelle/Getty Images)

Little died on January 1st. He was 78.

Howard Schnellenberger (Miami Hurricanes Head Coach)

Miami, FL – Coach Howard Schnellenberger of the University of Miami Hurricanes during a game against the Penn State Nittany Lions in November 1981 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)

Schnellenberger died on March 27th, 2021. He was 87.