The Columbus Blue Jackets are in the midst of the best season in franchise history - and they'd love to cap it off with an unlikely trip to the playoffs.
The Blue Jackets will be trying to make up ground in the Western Conference race on Tuesday when they host the Calgary Flames.
|With a defeat of the Red Wings on Sunday, the Columbus Blue Jackets set a new franchise record with their 75th point of the season. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Columbus (32-29-11) beat the NHL-leading Detroit Red Wings 4-3 on Sunday, giving it 75 points - one more than its previous franchise record posted in 2005-06. The Blue Jackets, in their seventh season in the NHL, still have 10 games left to build on the record.
However, Columbus is more focused on earning its first playoff berth. The Blue Jackets are tied with Chicago for 12th place in the West, and would need a remarkable run to end their postseason drought.
"We knew what was expected of us," said Manny Malhotra, who had two goals and a career-high three points against the Red Wings. "With our season on the line right now, we're going to have to play like that through the stretch."
Fredrik Norrena made his first start since Feb. 13 and had a career-high 43 saves. No. 1 goalie Pascal Leclaire, replaced by Norrena after yielding three goals on 19 shots in Friday's 6-3 loss to the Blackhawks, did not play after being hit in the head by a shot during warmups.
The mishap will keep Leclaire out at least two games with a head injury, and Norrena will start Tuesday. The club also recalled Dan LaCosta from its American Hockey League affiliate in Syracuse on Monday to fill in for Leclaire.
The win was the Blue Jackets' second in six games overall and their second in three home games after dropping seven straight there. However, Columbus managed to beat Detroit for the third straight time.
"I've said this over and over, it's kind of been our gift and our curse through the whole year is that against top teams in the league, we always bring our 'A' performance, and we play really hard and we play the style that we're expected to play," Malhotra said. "When we're playing against teams that we're battling for points or perhaps are below us in the standings, that go get 'em-type attitude isn't quite there."
The Blue Jackets will get another chance against a team currently in playoff position when they face the Flames (37-25-10), who are battling Minnesota, Colorado and Vancouver for the Northwest Division lead.
"It's crazy in our division. It's so close," Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff said. "We can't look at the other games and just worry about our games."
Kiprusoff stopped 34 shots in Sunday's 4-2 win in Chicago and has made at least 30 saves in five straight starts and eight of nine. Jarome Iginla, Kristian Huselius and Dion Phaneuf each scored in the second period for the Flames, who won for the second time in five games.
Calgary also bounced back after blowing leads in its previous two defeats, both on the road.
"We've had trouble at the end of games lately," said Alex Tanguay, who had two assists. "We need to learn to finish games. Today, Kipper was solid at the end."
Iginla has five goals and three assists during a four-game point streak.
Calgary is 2-0-1 against Columbus this season, including a 1-0 win on March 4 in the last meeting behind 39 saves from Kiprusoff.