Streaking Flames host slumping Lightning (Dec 14, 2016)
CALGARY, Alberta -- The Calgary Flames host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome in a battle of two well-rested teams.
Both the Flames (16-13-2) and Lightning (14-13-2) have enjoyed a break in their schedules since they last played on Saturday night.
While the Flames beat the Winnipeg Jets 6-2 at home on Saturday for their sixth straight win, the Lightning dropped a 4-3 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Tampa earlier the same evening.
Although the streaking Flames are back in contention, Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan cautioned that his players will have to continue to build on that momentum to stay in the mix in the highly-competitive Pacific Division.
"We have moved the bar for ourselves in the last month," Gulutzan said. "Everybody knows about our start, we dug ourselves a hole and we are starting to get ourselves out of it. We've got a lot of work to do, but we have a great group."
Included in that group is goaltender Chad Johnson, who has gone 9-1-0 in his past 10 starts.
"Obviously, it starts with (Johnson) back there in the pipes," said center Sean Monahan, who has shrugged off a slow start to his season with the Flames by recording points in seven straight games, which is a career high.
"He's giving us that confidence to go out there and work for him. When we're getting the chances we're putting the puck in the back of the net. I think that comes down to us sticking to our structure and keeping it simple. That's why we're getting our chances."
While the Flames are on fire, the same can't be said for the Lightning, who have gone 1-6-1 in its past eight games and 4-7-1 since superstar center Steven Stamkos suffered a meniscus tear in his right knee.
After enjoying a three-day break from action, Tampa Bay will play three road games in four nights starting with Wednesday's tough test against Calgary. The Lightning will then play the Canucks in Vancouver on Friday before taking on the Oilers in Edmonton the next night.
"We've had a little time to practice," Lightning coach Jon Cooper told the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday. "We've had a little rest. We're going to need that going on the road here especially that we're playing three in four nights. I think every team that we play is sitting home waiting for us for a couple of days, so we have to be on our game."
Despite the slump his team is in, Cooper said his players have kept up a positive attitude.
"Nobody wants to be in the situation that we're in, but we are in that situation and we have to work our way out just like everybody else," said Cooper.
The Lightning recalled right winger Erik Condra and defenseman Slater Koekkoek from the AHL's Syracuse Crunch on Monday. Koekkoek was sent down to the AHL for two games to get some much-needed playing time before being called back up.
"He's taking big steps, positive steps every single year," Cooper told the Times. "When our D corps finally got healthy, we could afford to play him some games in Syracuse. He's definitely part of our team. He's coming with us out west. Our goal is to get him in and getting back helping us."