LAS VEGAS — The Calgary Flames find themselves two points out of third place in the Pacific Division and also the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference as they begin a stretch of playing seven of their next nine games on the road.
Normally that might be cause for concern but the Flames, who start a two-game desert road trip Wednesday night against the Western Conference-leading Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena, don’t mind packing their suitcases these days.
Calgary is a glossy 17-7-5 on the road this season, one of the top marks in the NHL. By comparison, the Flames are 13-14-4 at the Scotiabank Saddledome, including back-to-back losses to Boston 2-1 in overtime Monday and to Florida 6-3 on Saturday.
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Toss in the fact that the trip to Vegas and Arizona is also a Mom’s trip with some players bringing their mothers along to the sunny, warm desert and it’s easy to see why the Flames might be looking forward to hitting the road.
But with only 22 games remaining, Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan made it clear that the trip will be anything but a vacation for his squad.
“This is really the man’s portion of the schedule,” Gulutzan told NHL.com.
First up is a game with a Vegas team that will be making its second attempt at breaking the NHL record for most home wins by an expansion team. The Golden Knights, who were shut out at home by Anaheim 2-0 on Monday, are 22-5-2 at T-Mobile Arena and share the mark with the Gordie Howe-led Hartford Whalers, who also won 22 games in their debut season of 1979-80.
“We know what it is but we don’t want to use it as an anchor either,” Gulutzan said of Vegas’ home record. “We’re just going in there to play; we know what’s at stake this time of year for us.”
The Golden Knights scored three times in the final two minutes to pull out a 4-2 victory on Jan. 30 at Calgary in the first of four meetings this season.
“I think we match up good against them: both quick teams, both play very similar,” Gulutzan said. “Obviously we’re better on the road. I thought for 58 minutes that was a good hockey game. The last two, two mistakes and it went against us, which doesn’t happen all the time but it happened in that game. But I think it’s going to be a really good game there.”
Vegas (39-16-4) was blanked by the Ducks on Monday night despite finishing with a 33-20 edge in shots. Anaheim also blocked 25 more shots but the Golden Knights didn’t really have any great scoring chances until late in the third period when Jonathan Marchessault, who leads the team with 58 points, hit the crossbar with a shot and left winger Tomas Hyka, making his NHL debut, was stopped point blank by goalie Ryan Miller.
The Golden Knights, who need one point to tie the NHL record (83 points) for an expansion team set by the Florida Panthers in 1993-94, played without left winger James Neal, who is second on the team in goals with 24, and defenseman Shea Theodore (18 points), both of whom were scratched because of illness and also missed practice Tuesday.
“No update,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said when asked after practice on Tuesday if the duo would be back to play against the Flames. “I haven’t heard anything more from the trainers or medical staff. I’ll know that (Wednesday) morning.”