'FUN TIME OF YEAR'
Backlund and Flames focused and fired up for big homestand in final push to playoffsby ALEX MEDINA @alex_medina5 / CalgaryFlames.com
Things continue to heat up.
And it's only going to get hotter.
After a successful road swing where they racked up seven of a possible 10 points, the Flames return home for a crucial five-game homestand with just 15 tilts remaining in the regular season.
To make things more interesting - and intriguing - all five teams set to pay a visit to the Scotiabank Saddledome coming up are in the midst of their own playoff hunt.
Video: "Definitely more desperation"
It's ratcheting up.
"It's a fun time of year playing strong teams in a short span this late in the season," said Mikael Backlund on Wednesday following practice.
"We have to be more desperate this time around. We don't know what is in store for us and nothing is guaranteed, it's all in our hands to decide our own fate.
"It's a different mindset compared to last season when we knew we were in playoffs for sure and that makes each game more important for us. Everyone in the room is prepared to work hard and grind out some wins.
"I think if we can bring the simplicity of our game that we had on the road and translate it here back on home ice, we'll be in a good spot."
There's a lot of confidence and swagger in the room after their recent roadie, knowing that they can continue to stay hot by sticking to what has helped them find success.
And it's all driven by a simple game-by-game approach.
Video: "We have to bring that confidence home"
"You can't worry about what's ahead and just take things one step at a time," Milan Lucic said. "You look at our games as of late - we've had good starts and built off of that. As much as it's focusing on one game, you magnify it even more by having a good opening 20 minutes and carrying the momentum for the rest of the game.
"Having the same mentality in being direct and not messing around goes a long way in being successful as a group."
Flames Interim head coach Geoff Ward alluded to past experiences of coming off a long road trip as valuable learning tools for the club to reflect back on, as they prepare for Wednesday night tilt against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"The focus of our team is in a great place where we need to be both mentally and physically," he said. "At the end of the day, we aren't worried playing at home or on the road, the bottom line is that it's another game with points at stake.
"We don't want to be passive, when guys have the chance to shoot, we want them to take it. If there isn't a play, don't force anything.
"Let's be direct play and play smart. That's the way to play this time of year."
Video: "Keep it smart, keep it simple"
The Flames currently sit third in the Pacific Division with 75 points - just five points back of first, with a two-point cushion in the wildcard race.
"It's wide open right now with how tight our division is," said Matthew Tkachuk. "Each game is crucial for us and this is the time to get on a roll.
"The first game after the road trip is always the hardest. If we can stick to our game and set the tone, it'll be crucial moving forward to help us go on a run and string more together.
"The biggest thing for us right now need is be direct in our approach and be prepared to play in those tight low scoring games. You can't play a run and gun style and hope for the best each time out, it's not sustainable to go chance for chance with teams."