The Calgary Flames are looking to get their game back on track. The Ottawa Senators are simply happy to be back playing.
When the Flames host the Senators on Thursday, it will be with the intention of snapping a three-game losing skid that ended a disappointing road trip with a 6-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Jan. 7.
The Flames were flying high at the start of December while sitting atop the Western Conference standings, but they have come crashing down. A COVID-19 outbreak that impacted nearly everybody on the team has been bookended by a spell in which they’ve won twice in their past nine games (2-6-1).
Since returning to practice from their disappointing road swing that ended with losses to the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Hurricanes, the Flames have been hunting for their form.
“It’s kind of a good reset for us,” forward Andrew Mangiapane said. “Obviously, the last three games, I don’t think we played at our best, but it’s almost a time to reflect on it and get better from it. We’re having good, strong practices and are trying to get better and ready for our next game.”
As they’ve prepared for the Senators, the Flames have used a handful of practices to reinforce the lessons learned against the Eastern Conference heavyweights.
“You want to play games, but at the same time we have details in our game that we have to clean up and have really dialed in when we play,” defenseman Oliver Kylington said. “We just have to look forward now and apply the details in all of our games to really be a hard team to play against.”
The Senators last played New Year’s Day when they were trounced 6-0 by the Toronto Maple Leafs. That was their only game since Dec. 18 thanks to a variety of COVID issues. They’ve been forced to battle through essentially a second training camp in anticipation of trying to snap a three-game losing skid.
“It’s getting a little old,” winger Zach Sanford said. “You play the game to play games and compete. When you don’t get to do that, you’re missing a big part of what you do.”
Only a couple of regulars on the roster have avoided the virus, with rising star forward Tim Stutzle the latest to be sent to the sidelines. Stuzle made the trip to Calgary but tested positive Tuesday night and won’t play.
Ottawa has played only 29 games — only the New York Islanders have played fewer with 28 — and has more than a dozen postponed games to find dates for between now and the end of the season. The Calgary contest originally was slated to be the fourth in a five-game road trip, but it currently is scheduled to be the first half of a sojourn that includes a Saturday clash with the Edmonton Oilers, who are currently battling an outbreak of their own.
“You just have to be a little bit open-minded,” forward Austin Watson said . “There’s a professionalism, and it gets challenged in times like this. Normal years, there’s something to it — being a pro in the league — but right now especially, being able to maintain your quality of work, your detail and your energy on a day-to-day basis when you have no idea when you might play again, it’s testing guys.”
“We understand the situation,” coach D.J. Smith said. “It’s hard on the league, it’s hard on everyone. We just want to play.”
–Field Level Media