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TIME TO 'B' EXCITED

Important week on tap for Flames, starting tonight with home tilt against the Bruins

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

It's never wise to look too far into the future. 

But your typical game, this ain't. 

A tedious week?

Nonsense.

This is, without question, the most critical point in the 2019-20 season, so far. Six games. Ten days. A pair of tilts against Boston, one against Nashville, and a date with the surging Tampa Bay Lightning tossed in, for good measure. 

As Andy Dufresne poetically put it that night at Shawshank: "Get busy livin,' or get busy dyin'." 

"We're playing a good opponent - and we know we're going to be playing good opponents all week long," said interim head coach Geoff Ward. "We know that we need to be at our best to have success, and I think that's going to be a good thing for us. … That, in itself, should motivate us to bring our best out, but we'll see."

The big, bad Bruins arrive on the heels of a 2-1 overtime win over the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday - their fourth straight victory, and 10th in 11 tries dating back to Jan. 21.

At 38-11-12 and with 88 points banked in the murderer's row that is the Atlantic Division, the B's have a three-point lead on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Presidents' Trophy race and are stocking up for a deep playoff run. 

In fact, as the Flames were on the ice for their optional morning skate Friday, the B's acquired forward Ondrej Kase from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for David Backes, prospect Axel Andersson, and a 2020 first-round pick.

Kase will add speed and skill to an already lethal forward group that includes, as Rasmus Andersson put it, "the best line in the entire NHL."

The 34-year-old, four-time Selke winner Patrice Bergeron - one of the best two-way pivots to ever play the game - is currently on a four-game goal streak and has eight points in his last half-dozen tilts.

Coming off his first, 100-point campaign, super-pest Brad Marchand looks poised to repeat, or even best that total as he puts a four-game point streak on the line. 

Last, but certainly not least, David Pastrnak's 43 goals have him in a tie with Auston Matthews for the league lead - two clear of the ever-surging Alex Ovechkin, and nine up on the league's leading point-getter, Leon Draisaitl. 

A tall task, indeed. 

 

Video: "It's a big game for us" 

 

"What makes (Bergeron) such a special player is he's so great on both sides of the puck and it's his defensive game that allows him to play in the offensive zone," said Milan Lucic, a former Bruin that played eight seasons in Beantown, and was bonded for life with a Stanley Cup victory in 2011. 

"He doesn't trade chances; he's always in the right spot at the right times, he wins faceoffs and all that type of stuff. You add Marchand and Pastrnak with it - I've heard a lot of people call it the 'Perfection Line,' and it makes it that much more dynamic with the skill-set those two provide to it. You even look at a guy like (David) Krejci - I know him probably better than anything. I feel like he doesn't get talked about enough and his two-way game, his offensive game and all that type of stuff. The Bruins have been lucky to have the two of them in the one-two slot for the last 13, 14 years and that's why they've been an elite team for all these years.

"We've got to focus on the things we've done well that's given us wins in the last couple games. That's our back pressure, being tight in the D zone, not turning the puck over. Obviously, if you turn the puck over and trade chances with a team like this, it's not going to work in your favour. …. Our puck management is going to have to be 
elite tonight, and we've got to do all these things to give ourselves a chance to win."

While the Bruins are a handful offensively, their defensive game is arguably their strong suit. 

By the numbers, they're the stingiest team in the NHL, allowing only 2.3 goals per-game.

A lot of that has to do with goaltending, with Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak combining for some of the best numbers in modern history. 

Rask, in particular, has had a marvellous campaign, sporting a 23-5-6 record, along with a league-leading .932 save percentage and a miniscule, 2.04 goals-against average. 

 

Video: "We're focusing on the first period"

 

But the Flames - who have been on something of a goal-scoring tear of late - aren't scared. You can't be. 

The team has historically gotten up for games of this magnitude, and will be bringing that same brand of fearlessness into this evening's contest. 

"Everything is about us," Andersson said. "Whether we're playing the No.-1 team or the 31st team, we've got to come out, be ready to play and be ready to win. 

"That's the mindset. 

"We all know how good they are and how good their goalie is and everything. ... It's going to be a tough game, a tough challenge. 

"But it's going to be fun, too. These are the games and the kind of matchups you look forward to."

The Flames currently hold down the second of two wild-card spots, and while the 'measuring-stick' game makes for a fun narrative, the players have to relish the opportunity in front of them. 

With the stretch run now upon us, this is a great chance to make a statement before Monday's trade deadline.  

"You've got to enjoy it," Lucic said. "You've got to enjoy what's at stake here." 

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