Flames hope to end Jackets' long streak (Dec 16, 2016)

BY AP • December 15, 2016

CALGARY, Alberta -- The Columbus Blue Jackets are riding a long winning streak while their next opponent, the Calgary Flames, are dealing with an abrupt end to one.

The teams meet Friday at 7 p.m. in Calgary. Columbus is going for its eighth-straight victory while the Flames are trying to start another streak after one ended at six with a 6-3 loss at home to Tampa Bay on

Wednesday night.

"It's a great league and it's hard to go on long win streaks so ultimately that's going to happen and it's just a matter of us re-focusing, re-grouping and bouncing back for next game," said Flames center Sam Bennett.

Normally a visit by the Blue Jackets has hosts licking their chops but that is no longer the case as, under head coach John Tortorella, the Blue Jackets (18-5-4) have emerged as a challenger for the lead in the tough Metropolitan Division. The are two points back division-leading Pittsburgh Penguins entering Friday, though they have played five fewer games.

If it wasn't for division foe Philadelphia Flyers, who have won 10 straight, the Blue Jackets would be the NHL's hottest team.

It's a far cry from the start of last season when the Blue Jackets began 0-7 and fired coach Todd Richards, bringing in lightning rod Tortorella. While they finished 27th overall in 2015-16, the Blue

Jackets caught fire this season and are an unheard of fifth overall.

Tortorella is being credited with taking a softer approach to coaching the youthful Blue Jackets that has worked thus far.

"It's him realizing that things should be ... done differently, whether it be with the players or with the media or whoever it is," Blue Jackets president John Davidson told Canadian network Sportsnet. "He's done a great job. The one thing I can tell you is he's a good coach. He's a really good coach."

Tortorella admits he's tried to be more relaxed. One change has been to eliminate game-day morning skates, which is considered sacrilegious by many in the NHL.

"I've made adjustments in my coaching to the youth of this team," he told NHL.com. "We've tried to, as I say, 'turn away' from mistakes and allow them to play because I think we need to play a different game, especially with some of the skill that's been brought to our team."

Columbus is relying heavily on goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who has started 24 of 27 games and has a 17-4-2 record and 1.94 goals-against average.

The Flames were getting similar strong goaltending from Chad Johnson who was in goal for all six of their wins until he hit a snag against Tampa Bay and was pulled after two periods trailing 4-1. Still, he's sitting at a fine 2.12 GAA with a 13-5-1 record.

"This isn't easy," said Flames coach Glen Gulutzan. "You hope you create these runs and we got ourselves back above board but it's a lesson here too. You can't take your foot off the gas at all, you can't lose little battles, you can't lose face-offs at the rate we were, which caused us a lot of trouble and disrupted our team a little bit."