Back in December, the last time the Calgary Flames went on a long road trip, they were not in a playoff spot and many were skeptical about how the team would fare on a six-game journey. But the Flames proved the critics wrong, winning all six games and putting themselves in the thick of the playoff hunt in the Western Conference.
Calgary begins a similar trip, a five-game, 11-day grind, that starts in San Jose Tuesday, (8:30 MT., Flames Pay-Per-View, The Fan 960 radio), knowing that they play 17 of their final 26 games on the road.
"You look back at that stretch and it was a critical part of our season. This is too," said defenceman Cory Sarich. "It was desperate hockey. That's the way we have to play now. If a guy wants to get into the playoffs, you have to win now."
|Road Trip at a Glance |
|Tue. Feb. 12, 8:30 p.m. |
vs San Jose (Flames PPV)
|Fri. Feb. 15, 8:30 p.m. |
vs. L.A. (Sportsnet)
|Sun. Feb. 17, 6 p.m. |
vs. Anaheim (Sportsnet)
|Tue. Feb. 19, 7:30 p.m. |
vs. Phoenix, (PPV)
|Wed. Feb. 20, 6:30 p.m. |
vs. Dallas (TSN)
The Flames have remained in a playoff spot since that run in December and are hoping for similar results as they visit San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix and Dallas on this trip
The Flames will need the kind of energy and determination they displayed in an emotional, 4-1 win over Edmonton on Saturday.
"It was a gritty game. We had some good defence. That's the way we want to play," said Sarich.
The Flames defensive play was particularly impressive, holding the Oilers to six shots after forty minutes. The physical game saw every Flame contributing, whether it be killing penalties or dropping the gloves. Matthew Lombardi had his first NHL fight with Ladislav Smid in the first period.
“It got everyone into it and it shows the type of emotion our team can play with,” said Owen Nolan, who had a two goal outing against the Oilers. "There's no limitations if we keep playing that way.”
"Winning on the road is that much harder in this league with the travel and the time zone changes. But hte bottom line is you have to win them," said defenceman Dion Phaneuf.
The Flames practised in Calgary on Monday before flying to San Jose. As they boarded the plane they sat in a tie with Nashville for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference with 64 points. They were just four points back of Minnesota for the coveted first spot in the Northwest Division, which brings a top three seeding with it for the playoffs. They know things can change in a heartbeat.
""If you don't get points night after night, you are not moving up. If you aren't getting points, you aren't keeping up," said Phaneuf. "This road trip is huge for our team to get points in a tight division in a tight conference."
And this trip is no cakewalk. San Jose is a strong team with good goaltending and are in a battle in the Pacific Division with Dallas and Anaheim. The Kings are basically out of the playoffs but are finding some wins along the way and would like nothing better than to play spoiler. Anaheim is one of the toughest teams in the league and won't be pushed around in their own building. Phoenix has given the Flames a tough go in their first two meetings, which they split and Dallas is atop the Pacific Division.
The Flames will be back at the Pengrowth Saddledome on Feb. 22 to play the league-leading Detroit Red Wings.