With only four home games on the docket in November, the Calgary Flames will spend the bulk of the month on the road. This week, they'll skate in four different barns: the The BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL on Tuesday, the Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay, FL on Thursday, the Verizon Center in Washington, DC on Friday, and the United Center in Chicago on Sunday.
While that is a hefty schedule with plenty of traveling throughout the USA, the Flames head into the busy week with a ton of momentum. After dropping a rough 6-3 decision in Colorado last Tuesday, the team rebounded with back-to-back wins at the Scotiabank Saddledome: a 2-1 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers and an impressive 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
"It’s not only the wins. It’s the way we played. The confidence is coming back," Bob Hartley said after the decisive victory over the Penguins. "The swagger is coming back. As long as we keep top teams like this to 10, 12 chances a game, I like our chances."
That swagger will come in handy as they to improve on their 2-4-1 road record and get themselves back in the mix in the Western Conference.
"It was huge for us to get those two wins here at home and get some back-to-back wins there," Johnny Gaudreau said. "We have a huge trip coming up. We're excited, and we have to get right after it the next game."
Road Trip Basics:
Flames @ Panthers - Tuesday, Nov. 10 (5:30 PM MT on Sportsnet West) - Panthers hold a 3-2-1 record at home.
Flames @ Lightning - Thursday, Nov. 12 (5:30 PM MT on Sportsnet Flames) - Lightning hold a 2-3-0 record at home.
Flames @ Capitals - Friday, Nov. 13 (5:00 PM MT on Sportsnet West) - Capitals hold a 6-2-0 record at home.
Flames @ Blackhawks - Sunday, Nov. 15 (6:30 PM MT on Sportsnet One) - Blackhawks hold a 7-1-1 record at home.
GO, JOHNNY GO
Johnny Hockey, man.
The Flames sophomore continued his offensive output last week, posting five points in three games and capping off the week with a three-point performance against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins on Saturday.
Gaudreau leads the Flames in scoring with four goals and 17 points in 15 games, is tied for second in the NHL with 13 assists, and is tied for fourth in league scoring thanks to those aforementioned 17 points.
As of Sunday evening, Gaudreau trailed Tyler Seguin -- the NHL leader in assists and tied for the lead in points -- by one assist and six points. If he continues his torrid offensive output, he could overtake the Stars forward in assists and close the gap in points.
SAM, I AM
After picking just one assist in his first eight appearances this season, Sam Bennett was frustrated with how his year was going.
He couldn't get himself into a groove. The chances were there but the point production wasn't coming.
But he didn't give up. He kept pushing and that determination has paid off.
Bennett, 19, has eight points in his last six games and on Saturday, was named the first star in the 5-2 decision over Pittsburgh after setting up the game's opening goal and scoring an absolute beauty in the second period.
The tally, his third of the season, came after he took a pass from linemate Michael Frolik and went streaking towards the net. He danced around Pittsburgh defenceman Ian Cole and sniped a forehand shot past Marc-Andre Fleury.
"I was just holding it," Bennett explained. "I was thinking of shooting and then he reached a little bit. It was a fast play, but I just pulled it inside and I'm happy it worked. Once I made the first move the next thing I knew I was one-on-one with Fleury. I just made a move and I'm happy it went in."
On Saturday night, Bob Hartley succinctly summed up his rookie's presence in the lineup in recent weeks.
"Benny is kind of the jack-in-a-box that’s bouncing all over the place and skating like a devil."
Given his skill, speed, and unwavering work ethic, it is fair to assume Bennett will continue to build off his recent success when the Flames take to the ice this week.
HOW SWEDE IT IS
Much like Bennett, Mikael Backlund didn't get off to the start he envisioned when the 2015-16 campaign kicked off on Oct. 7.
The 26-year-old had just one goal in his first 13 appearances this year and bounced up and down the depth chart as the coaching staff tried to get their forwards going. But in the past two games, Backlund has five points and looks like a different player.
Despite his early-season struggles, the coaching staff's belief in the pivot never wavered. They know how talented Backlund is and were patient with him as he got himself sorted after a minor malady derailed his training camp and pre-season.
"He got hurt in camp and obviously it has been a little tougher than expected but it’s a young season,” Hartley stated. "We count on him and we need him. He’s one of our best two-way players as a forward. He’s a great centreman for us. It’s just a matter of getting him back in gear and he’s going to be alright."
Saturday's game featured Backlund centering Bennett and Frolik, a trio that looked very comfortable together and was creating chances all throughout the game. Given their success, expect to see their line to remain in tact when the Flames hit the ice at the BB&T Center on Tuesday.
The Flames lost a ton of grit when wingers Lance Bouma (broken fibula) and Michael Ferland (MCL sprain) were knocked out of the lineup with injuries but they're close to getting some physicality back.
Ferland has been skating with the team, is on the Flames four-game road swing, and is likely to be cleared to play in the near future.
The forward sustained the injury in the Flames 3-2 OT victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 23. He went in for a routine hit and twisted his knee.
"As soon as I hit him I could feel my leg … it kind of felt my knee shifted and popped out of place and back in. I just knew right away something was wrong. It was my same knee. It wasn’t close to the injury I had when I was out for half a year.
"It’s feeling good right now. I’m really anxious to get back out there."