The Calgary Flames look poised to end one of the NHL’s longest postseason droughts, but they aren’t taking anything for granted entering their final 10 games.
They can severely damage the Colorado Avalanche’s already slim playoff chances Monday night.
Calgary (39-27-6) is in third place in the Pacific Division and seeking its first playoff bid since 2009, as it’s tied with Carolina for the NHL’s longest active drought. The Flames have dropped three of four, however, including two of three to open a five-game homestand.
They’re 6-3-2 since defenseman Mark Giordano was lost to a season-ending torn biceps tendon, and a two-point edge over Los Angeles isn’t particularly reassuring.
"I have no idea what the number’s going to be," left wing Brandon Bollig, who played in 24 postseason games the last three years with Chicago, told the team’s official website. "With how tight everything is right now with who we’re racing with and all that, all I know is it is going to come down to the wire. It’s going to come down to the last game.
"We can’t afford to drop any points, especially games that we’re not working hard and we’re not creating chances, we’re not playing the right way."
The Flames have gone 10 for 33 on the power play over their last nine games and a number of players have been hot. Sean Monahan has 12 goals and eight assists in his last 17, while Jiri Hudler has seven and nine in his last 10. Johnny Gaudreau, whose 57 points are the most by a Calgary rookie since Sergei Makarov recorded 86 in 1989-90, has five goals and eight assists in his last 10 contests.
Monahan and Hudler scored Saturday against Columbus, but Calgary wasted a 40-26 advantage in shots and squandered two leads in a 3-2 overtime defeat.
"All those beautiful stats, they’re not worth nothing once the score is up there and the game is over," coach Bob Hartley said. "That’s the most important stat and tonight they got one goal more than us."
The Avalanche’s 11-4-1 surge may have come too late for them to make a second consecutive postseason appearance, as they’re eight points out of the second wild-card spot. The Avs (33-26-12) are 6-1-1 in the last eight, though they lost 3-2 in overtime at Anaheim on Friday.
"We played against a good team that has really high expectations," coach Patrick Roy said. "I think it’s a good learning process for us. Now we need to regroup for the next game."
Nathan MacKinnon remains sidelined with a broken foot, though reinforcements could be on the way. Center Jesse Winchester, who has been out with a concussion suffered in the preseason, will participate in the morning skate and could make his season debut. Defenseman Erik Johnson hasn’t played since Jan. 21 due to a knee injury but could return as early as Saturday’s contest against Buffalo.
Semyon Varlamov, 6-0-1 with a 1.43 goals-against average in his last seven starts, will be in net.
"He always gives us a chance to win and that’s what you expect from your No. 1 goalie," Roy said.
Varlamov lost his last two starts in Calgary while giving up eight goals on 52 shots, including a 4-3 overtime defeat Dec. 4. Colorado beat the Flames 3-2 at home March 14.