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JOSTLING WITH THE JACKETS

The Flames view tonight's tilt as a great test

by TORIE PETERSON @ToriePeterson / CalgaryFlames.com

COLUMBUS - The Flames like where they're headed.

Despite a couple of bumps along the way, they have put together quite the run over the past few weeks and are 7-3-0 in their last 10 skates.

They are coming off one of their best games of the year, a 4-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Monday, and want to carry over momentum from that victory into this evening.

But they know two points in Columbus won't come easily.

The Flames view the Blue Jackets as one of the best teams in the NHL and see tonight's match-up as a way to gauge where their game is at.

"(Jamie Pringle's) pre-scout on these guys that we've done, looking at them, is something to the effect of: sharpen your skates, brace for contact and put your work boots on. We know what we're in for," head coach Glen Gulutzan said after this morning's skate at Nationwide Arena. "This is a real good hockey team: great defence, great goaltender, well-balanced up front. It's going to be a full effort from our group tonight."

Columbus heads into tonight's tilt on a four-game winning streak in which they've outscored their opponents 9-4. Artemi Panarin, acquired in the off-season from Chicago, is leading the way with five goals 15 points. Oliver Bjorkstrand is second in team scoring with 13 points and defencemen Zach Werenski and Seth Jones are tied for third with 12 points each.

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has been exceptional for his club, posting a 12-4-1 record with a 2.02 GAA and a .933 save percentage.

"They're a team that we consider one of the best in the league," Mark Giordano noted. "The style of play, they have a great mobile defence with a great goalie and then their forwards are really deep. They've been in the top of the league, in our minds, for a couple of years now. They're hard to play against. They play a hard game, they block a lot of shots, they forecheck really hard.

"It's a great test for us. If we want to consider ourselves up there in the league, we've got to be able to go toe-to-toe with teams like this."

Video: Giordano talks about tonight's tilt in Columbus

While their blueliners and goaltender playing at such a high level, Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno acknowledged that the forward group is still in the midst of figuring out their identity.

"We're still trying to find ourselves a little bit, to be honest with you," he said on Tuesday. "We've had a lot of new faces up front. Obviously (Bobrovsky) has been the big story for us early - just when you're trying to find yourself, you open yourself up a little bit and don't play that consistent game but Bob's been a guy who is always consistent for us.

"I think we have some great defenders on our backend, our backend is a big part of our success.

"And I think right now, our forwards are just still trying to find ourselves and the roles we need to play and the style we need to play.

"But as of late, we've really found and used that identity a little bit more: the hard-working, low type of team where we're down underneath the hashmarks and that's what gives us success."

Even with the Blue Jackets forward group still searching for their identity, the Flames know they cannot take them lightly.

"I got in one game against these guys last year and I just remember they come hard, they work hard and they've got that skill to them too. That's a dangerous combination, when you've got skilled guys who work hard," Brett Kulak said.

"We're going to be ready for their best."

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