Blues end Western Canada swing seeking revenge against Flames
CALGARY, Alberta — The last time the Calgary Flames played the St. Louis Blues they scored four goals in the first period on their way to a convincing 7-2 road win at Enterprise Center on Sunday afternoon.
Since then, the Flames (22-11-3) have dropped two straight decisions, including a hard-fought 5-4 shootout setback to the NHL-leading Tampa Bay Lightning at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday.
Calgary captain Mark Giordano and his teammates would like nothing more than to get back to the form they showed in St. Louis, but they know the Blues (13-16-4) will have redemption on their minds when the two teams meet up at the Saddledome on Saturday for a rematch.
“Any time you play a team twice in a week, there’s usually a bit of bad blood spilling over,” said Giordano, who had a goal and an assist against the Blues on Sunday. “The fact that we did beat them in their rink, they’re going to come out hard.
“They’re trying to do the same thing we are — get a big win before the break and feel good about ourselves.”
Once again, the Flames and Blues will meet up for an afternoon affair before players on both teams go their separate ways for a four-day Christmas break.
“You always want to go into any break feeling good,” Giordano said. “I think our team’s in a good spot, but it’s a big two points and it’s an early game, so you get up, come to the rink and play. There shouldn’t be any distractions and then we get a nice little break with our families after that.”
Calgary coach Bill Peters confirmed on Friday that goalie Mike Smith will start in net against the Blues to give David Rittich, who has started Calgary’s past four games, a bit of a breather.
“First time he’s been able to practice in a long time,” said Peters in regards to Smith, who has been battling an undisclosed injury. “He’s won his last six straight starts, so he’s going in (on Saturday).
“I think he’s going to be dialed in and feeling really good about himself and come in and play really well (on Saturday).”
Following their ugly loss at home to the Flames, the Blues bounced back with a 4-1 road win over the Edmonton Oilers two nights later before losing 5-1 in Vancouver to the Canucks on Thursday.
“We took a period off and that’s the result we’re going to get, but I think there was a lot of positives out there, so we’ve just got to stay positive and be ready for Calgary,” said defenseman Joel Edmundson after the loss in Vancouver, pointing out that the Blues had a horrible second period to let the Canucks take control of the game. “At the end of the day, when you take a period off, good teams will take advantage of that.”
After an afternoon practice at the Calgary Corral on Friday, St. Louis coach Craig Berube said that one of the keys to slowing down the Flames’ offensive attack is to focus on not being careless with the puck when they have possession.
“Puck possession’s really important against these guys,” Berube told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Puck support’s really important against these guys. And blue-lines will be important. Not turning it over at the blue-lines, getting it by ’em.
“They’re an aggressive hockey team. They come at you. Their ‘D’ really hold blue-lines, and they’re going to try and jam everything.”
Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who played 279 games for the Flames from 2009 to 2013, said the Blues will definitely be gunning for revenge on Saturday afternoon.
“The last game against them was pretty ugly, so we’ll have that in the back of our mind,” Bouwmeester told the Post-Dispatch.