FINDING SUCCESS ON THE ROAD
The last time the Flames embarked on a road swing they were coming off a pair of successful home games, wins over the Canucks and the Sharks. Confidence was high and things were clicking.
We all know what happened after that.
The club is hoping they learn from their previous road blunder in which they left California with as many points as they entered the sunny state.
"We went to California and had three losses and then came back home and played great for two games," said bench boss Bob Hartley. "In this business there is a big part that is unpredictable."
"We are right there in the standings but we need points on the road to be exactly where we want to be."
"We have Dallas, Nashville and Columbus. We are going to take them one at a time but they are all big challenges for us.
Although the team is on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture with half of the season consumed, they have fought back from adversity after the last two road trips and climbed back to the .500 mark.
Sitting four points removed from eighth in the Western Conference and having played the fewest number of games, they have a chance to make up some ground facing three teams within a point of Calgary in the standings.
"Road games are tough to win but we have been playing well lately," said forward Brian McGrattan. "I think if we play the way we have these last two games and take that into this road trip I think we will be fine."
The Flames will open their three-game road stint on Monday night in Dallas.
The Stars have struggled as of late with only one victory in their last five games. They have lost three straight games at home and were ousted 8-1 by the high-flying Blackhawks on Saturday.
It's safe to say the Stars are a hungry team.
"Dallas is a much better team than what they showed last night but everyone can have a bad game," said Hartley. "I've lost some big games with great teams and I've won some big games with average teams. Every game is a different situation.
The Flames had success in Dallas earlier this season coming out with a 4-3 come-from-behind triumph on February 17th. Down 3-1 heading into the third period, the Flames would strike three times to edge the Stars. Steve Begin scored his only goal of the season, the game winner at the 10:30 mark of the final stanza.
Blueliner Mark Giordano knows it will be a tough match.
"Anytime you lose like that they are going to be grinding and working hard and we are just going to have to be sharp, said the 29-year-old rearguard. "If we can find a way to get that first one (goal) it will be really big for us."
Mikael Backlund can't buy a break.
An injury-riddled 2011-12 campaign saw him play only 41 games. It started in training camp with a broken finger. Returning from that, he’d suffer a shoulder injury in an altercation with Canucks defenceman Andrew Alberts.
The 24-year-old pivot was sidelined for 14 games earlier this season with a knee blemish when he fell awkardly in a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on February 7th.
Backlund returned to the ice on March 11th for the final game of the Flames three-game California excursion and picked up right were he left off tallying a goal and two assists in four contests.
On Friday the Vasteras, Sweden native left after the tilt against the Nashville Predators in a walking cast on his left foot after blocking a shot.
The official diagnoses is a bone bruise associated with a crack in the bone. The forward is listed as day-to-day and may even suit up against the Stars on Monday.
"It was fortunate that it wasn't as bad as I first thought," said Backlund. "It's not too bad and it could have been worse and I am hoping to play as soon as possible and hopefully that's tomorrow."
"I have just been trying to stay positive. It's been tough but it feels better today."
Flames head coach Bob Hartley was singing the praises of the middle man.
"That's bad luck but that's paying the price," said Hartley prior to leaving for Dallas. "The young man is starting to do this on a consistent basis and that's what we are asking of him."
"It's unfortunate but it will get better."
When asked if Hartley would insert rookie forward Roman Cervenka in the lineup against Dallas if Backlund is unable to go, the coach said he would wait until Backlund skates in the morning.
"Tomorrow morning we will look at Backs (Backlund) and he will try tomorrow morning and we will see if he can play," said Hartley. "If that's the case he will play and if not it will be Roman (Cervenka)."
The Flames have recalled netminder Danny Taylor for the Abbotsford Heat.
Miikka Kiprusoff will not travel to Dallas due to his wife’s pregnancy and the imminent birth of their second child. Additionally, Leland Irving had minor elective surgery on March 12th. The surgery went very well and he is expected to return to play within 2 weeks.
Taylor has appeared in two games with the Flames this season recording a 1-1-0 record including his first career NHL win on March 3rd versus the Vancouver Canucks.