The Calgary Flames aren't going to the playoffs, but they're the kind of team that's occasionally going to make life difficult for a contender.
That's about all Winnipeg can hope for with 13 games remaining, and the two Western Conference bottom-feeders with identical records meet Wednesday night in Calgary with the Jets chasing a season-best winning streak.
It's the Flames (29-35-5) who are coming off the more eye-catching win – 7-4 at home over St. Louis on Monday that ended the Blues' six-game winning streak. In typically unreliable Calgary fashion, a 5-2 lead became a one-goal game in the third period before Michael Frolik scored his second short-handed goal of the game and added an empty-netter to complete a hat trick.
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“It's always nice when you can score three,” Frolik told the team's official website a game before facing his former team for the second time. “It's always nice to see the hats on the ice. I'm just happy I could help the team win tonight.”
Such results have become more rare for the Flames over the last month-plus, as they've gone 4-10-2 with 3.69 goals allowed per game since last winning consecutive contests as part of a three-game streak Feb. 6-11. Calgary – with two games remaining on a six-game homestand – and Winnipeg are two points up on Edmonton to avoid the West cellar.
“There's no reason for us to quit right now. It's just about playing hard and playing with pride,” defenseman Dougie Hamilton said after recording three assists.
The Flames and Jets have split two games with the home team winning each. Calgary has taken the last two home meetings by a 9-3 total, including a 4-1 win Dec. 22 behind a Johnny Gaudreau hat trick.
Winnipeg's Blake Wheeler had a goal and an assist in the Jets' 3-1 victory Oct. 16 and has 12 points in an eight-game point streak in the series.
The Jets (29-35-5) followed a 3-2 home win over Colorado on Saturday with Monday's 5-2 victory in Vancouver, setting them up for their first three-game winning streak since April 4-7. That was part of last season's playoff push that allowed them to sneak in as the second wild card.
That won't be enough this season with a double-digit point gap to overcome and multiple teams to pass. They've embraced that reality by making moves that point toward the future.
The one that brought Marko Dano has been paying dividends recently. Acquired from Chicago in the Andrew Ladd deal Feb. 25, the center had two goals and an assist against the Canucks and has three and two in his last four games.
“When I came here I was trying to impress and I was probably trying too much,” said Dano, who managed a goal and an assist in his first 18 games this season. “When you're trying too much, the goals (won't) come for you. When you stop thinking about it and play your simple game, the goals come and you don't even know how.”
The Jets have been shuffling Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec in goal. Hutchinson faced the Canucks so Pavelec could return against the Flames, hoping to improve after posting a 1-3-1 record and 3.70 goals-against average over his last six road games.
Joni Ortio has handled the load lately for Calgary with five straight starts. He's responded with a 3-1-1 record and 2.60 GAA after going 0-6-2 with a 3.34 mark in his first nine.