VANCOUVER, BC -- It wasn't the start the Calgary Flames wanted but after sputtering the in early goings of the season, the power play and penalty kill are back on track.
Since Dec. 1, the Flames have scored on 20 of their 56 opportunities with the power play, operating at a 35.7 percentage clip - tops in the NHL. During that same stretch, their penalty kill has been running at 89.1 percent - a figure that ranks them fourth in the league since Dec. 1.
They have also scored two short-handed goals since the start of December - tied for second in the league during that run.
Tonight, when facing a red-hot Vancouver club on a five-game winning streak, head coach Glen Gulutzan feels special teams could be a deciding factor.
"It's going to be important tonight, for sure," he emphasized. "I know they're not giving up a ton of chances. They have really tightened things up defensively.
"I think when teams are doing that, specialty teams become even more important."
In their last meeting with the Canucks, a 4-1 victory on Dec. 23, they scored one power play goal and were able to net one short-handed marker - both coming off of Mark Giordano's stick.
"We know that the last time we played them ... it wasn't a great game of ours but the key was the specialty teams," Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins admitted. "They scored short-handed and on the power play and that was the difference for sure. So we have to make sure we play with discipline and we play hard."
The Flames power play remains red hot heading into tonight's game, with three of the four goals they scored against Colorado in Wednesday's 4-1 victory coming with the man advantage.
Their penalty kill was also in top form, denying the Avalanche on three power play opportunities.
"That is the difference in games, you've got to win that special teams battle," Lance Bouma stated. "Our PK has to be very good and our power play has to keep clicking.
"Special teams are very important in this league so we have to keep bearing down on every chance we get."
FLAMES POWER PLAY UNITS
Kris Versteeg - Sean Monahan - Alex Chiasson
Johnny Gaudreau - TJ Brodie
Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik
Mark Giordano - Dougie Hamilton