Continued success at home has propelled the Calgary Flames to a modest winning streak that also happens to be their longest of the season.
The Flames can record a fourth straight victory by extending their run at home to eight Thursday night against the Buffalo Sabres, whom they've dominated at the Saddledome in recent years.
Though still among the NHL's bottom dwellers, Calgary (11-14-2) has gone 8-5-1 since a slow start, defeating San Jose 4-2 at home Tuesday to continue its improved play.
While its win streak is short in length, it's huge for the psyche of a club that had high expectations after snapping a five-year playoff drought last season.
“It's like a boxer that takes a real good one on the jaw in the first second of a fight,” coach Bob Hartley told the Flames' official website. “Right now, we're pulling out of the hole that we created for ourselves … I like the way we're progressing as a team.”
That progression has yielded the seven-game run at home – the club's longest since winning eight straight Feb. 23-March 27, 2013. Mikael Backlund had a goal and an assist Tuesday while Mark Giordano and Dennis Wideman each added two assists in the Flames' first regulation victory in seven games.
''Winning seven in a row at home gives you a nice confidence boost,'' said Backlund, who has half of his four goals in the last three games. “We've been playing some good hockey.”
Calgary has 12 non-shootout goals in the first three games of this five-game homestand. It scored 19 in dropping six of the previous nine overall.
“We knew we had a good team,” Backlund said. “What we did last year was really good and we wanted to build on that. Having this streak at home is huge for us. We always hoped we'd have a good season and always believed in ourselves.”
The Flames' league-worst power play, however, has gone 2 for 35 in the last 10 games after scoring once on seven chances against the Sharks.
Buffalo (11-14-3) has allowed one power-play goal in four of the last five contests.
The Sabres fell to Edmonton and Vancouver in the first two of their three-game trip, and they've been outscored 21-7 during a five-game skid at Calgary. Buffalo has lost seven of eight there, scoring two or fewer goals in each game.
The Sabres opened the scoring in the last two games but failed to take further advantage.
''We want better within this room,'' said veteran forward Brian Gionta, who scored Buffalo's first goal in Monday's 5-2 loss to the Canucks. “We know we're capable of that, so that's why it's so disappointing.''
The Sabres also need to improve defensively, having allowed 15 non-shootout goals in the past four games.
Rookie Linus Ullmark made 26 saves Monday and has a 3.23 goals-against average while losing his last six starts. Teammate Chad Johnson posted a 1.33 GAA during a three-game winning streak that ended with Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Oilers, and he's expected to start this game.
Gionta has two goals and two assists in the last six contests.
- Brian Gionta
- Buffalo Sabres
- Calgary Flames
- Chad Johnson
- Dennis Wideman
- Linus Ullmark
- Mark Giordano
- Mikael Backlund