CALGARY -- With unflattering predictions about the New Jersey Devils, defenseman Damon Severson told MSG Network in training camp, “Let’s be this year’s Calgary Flames.”
So far they are.
The Devils (10-6-1) have been among the NHL’s most surprising teams, and enter the game against the Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET; MSG+, SNW) winners of 10 of the past 13 games.
“No one expected us to win,” Severson said. “No one expected us to do well. It was up to us. We could either play hockey and be OK with losing and be OK with what everyone’s saying and everyone is going to be like, ‘Oh, they were right.’ Or we could go ahead and prove them wrong and it’ll be a whole new story. We’re glad to be on the good side of the story.”
It’s not unlike the projections Calgary faced heading into the 2014-15 season.
Entering the second year of a full-on rebuild, the Flames were projected to be among those vying for a top pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. Instead, they pieced together a 45-30-7 record to finish third in the Pacific Division and qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009, and advanced beyond the Western Conference First Round for the first time since 2004.
“I can see some similarities,” said Devils defenseman David Schlemko, who played 19 regular-season games and another 11 in the playoffs for Calgary. “We’re a young team in here and going through a cliché ‘rebuild’ or whatever people want to call it. We’ve had a better start than people think. It’s a little early, here in November, to be talking about a playoff run but so far so good. I can see some similarities.”
So can Severson, who was left impressed following a game against the Flames last season.
Trailing 4-2 with 3:33 remaining on Nov. 22, 2014, the Flames rallied with goals from Jiri Hudler and Curtis Glencross (with five seconds left) before Hudler scored the shootout winner to earn a 5-4 win against New Jersey.
“You saw them last year and when we came here last year, just the comeback they had on us,” Severson said. “That left an impression on me, just to see how hard they work and see that they never give up. They were down late in the game and they came back against us and took us right to a shootout. To see that first-hand playing against them and see them go on and make the Stanley Cup Playoffs and give a good run there, that’s definitely what I think we want to be this year.”
The Flames do, too.
Calgary (6-12-1) has struggled to be that same team this year, sitting sixth in the Pacific and 28th overall, and with wins in four of the past 12 games.
“[The Devils] want to get to the playoffs and make some noise like we did last year,” Flames center Matt Stajan said. “That’s obviously their mindset. We want to get back to playing the way we did last year, too. I think we’re not too worried about anything else. We’ve got to focus on tonight’s game and turn things around for us. It’s not easy, but we’ve got a good group in here and it’s just about coming together and doing it the right way.”
Here are the projected lineups:
Mike Cammalleri - Adam Henrique - Lee Stempniak
Sergey Kalinin - Travis Zajac - Kyle Palmieri
Jiri Tlusty - Jacob Josefson - Jordin Tootoo
Bobby Farnham - Stephen Gionta - Brian O’Neill
Andy Greene - Adam Larsson
John Moore - Damon Severson
Jon Merrill - David Schlemko
Injured: Tuomo Ruutu (right foot fracture), Patrik Elias (right knee), Stefan Matteau (ill)
Scratched: Eric Gelinas
Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Jiri Hudler
Sam Bennett - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik
Joe Colborne - Matt Stajan - David Jones
Brandon Bollig - Josh Jooris - Micheal Ferland
Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie
Kris Russell - Dougie Hamilton
Deryk Engelland - Dennis Wideman
Injured: Lance Bouma (broken leg), Jonas Hiller (lower body)
Scratched: Ladislav Smid, Mason Raymond
Status update: Matteau will miss his second-straight game because of illness. Gelinas will serve as a healthy scratch for a sixth-straight game. … The Flames held an optional skate Tuesday. Forward Derek Grant was assigned to Stockton of the American Hockey League on Monday.
Who’s hot: Cammalleri, who leads the Devils with 17 points, has three goals and three assists in his past five games. … Monahan has four goals and five points in his past five games for Calgary.