The Ducks greatly prefer to play the Flames in Anaheim, but their advantage in the series has been so dominant that even a trip to Calgary might start an otherwise disappointing season in the right direction.
The Pacific Division foes meet Tuesday night in Alberta with the Ducks seeking their 20th win in 27 meetings, though improving on that would take ending the Flames’ franchise-record 11-game home winning streak.
Anaheim’s 19-5-2 run against the Flames includes last season’s five-game win in the Western Conference semifinals, as well as a 5-3 home victory Nov. 24 to begin the season series. It also extended its regular-season home winning streak against Calgary to 21 games, which is tied for the second-longest in NHL history against a given opponent.
Things have been more balanced in Calgary with the Ducks going 6-5-2 since the start of 2010-11, including splitting two playoff games last season. To get back to the postseason, though, both teams need to reach another level, and the Flames seem to be getting there.
Anaheim (13-15-6) is beginning a three-game road trip against the Pacific’s Canadian clubs, while Calgary (17-16-2) is hosting its third on a four-game homestand.
Sunday’s 5-3 win over Edmonton established the club’s record home span and has the Flames at 9-2-0 overall since the start of the month thanks to plenty of scoring. They’ve averaged 3.55 goals per game in December and 3.82 over the home dominance.
Johnny Gaudreau and Mark Giordano both scored twice against the Oilers, giving Gaudreau five goals in two games and 12 with six assists this month.
"I think just altogether, including myself and throughout everyone in the locker room, I think we’re playing a lot harder right now," Gaudreau told the team’s official website. "When you do that and do the little things right you find the net. I’ve got a couple squeaky ones that I was fortunate enough to get in the net. I’ve been shooting a little bit more and finding the net a little bit more."
The Flames have also started to play at least at a manageable level in their defensive zone. Through November, they were allowing 3.58 goals per game, and with a 2.64 mark in December, that’s dropped to 3.29 – though that’s still the highest in hockey.
Karri Ramo has been better, posting a 2.01 goals-against average and .929 save percentage over a 5-2-0 span after going 8-8-1 with 3.06 and .898 marks. Including the postseason, he’s 3-5-0 with a 3.09 GAA and .905 save percentage against Anaheim.
Potential counterpart John Gibson won the meeting last month but is 1-1-0 with a 4.52 GAA and .824 save percentage in Calgary.
The Ducks returned from the Christmas break with Sunday’s 4-2 home win over Philadelphia and are in position to win consecutive games for the second time over an 8-8-4 span since winning four straight to start November. They hadn’t scored more than two goals in any of their previous eight games.
They were 2 for 3 on the power play after a 0-for-18 span in their first eight games of the month, and Shawn Horcoff scored short-handed. Corey Perry got their only even-strength goal and another with the advantage, giving him three goals in his last two games after totaling as many in his previous 10.
"That’s definitely how we have to play," Perry said. "When we don’t, we’re flat. So we have to play that upbeat style, and a lot of guys played really well."
Perry also had two goals and an assist last month against the Flames, giving him six goals and five assists in six games dating to the start of the postseason series.
Defenseman Cam Fowler is out with a sprained knee, and the club has recalled top prospect Shea Theodore. The Ducks will determine Fowler’s recovery time later in the week, but he isn’t expected to be on the road trip.