FLAMES (32-23-4) at RANGERS (36-16-6)
TV: SNW, MSG
NEW YORK -- The Calgary Flames have been breaking down their season in seven-game segments since opening night, and they're not going to alter their plan now even though they're starting what could be a season-defining seven-game road trip Tuesday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
"Tonight is Game 4," Flames coach Bob Hartley said.
The Flames are 1-1-1 in their current seven-game segment, but they have lost their past two games -- in overtime against the Minnesota Wild this past Wednesday, and 6-3 against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday.
Calgary, though, is in the Stanley Cup Playoff race in the Western Conference because of how well it has done in its seven-game segments. The Flames, who are one point out of the second wild-card spot through 59 games, have a winning record in seven of their eight full seven-game segments. They went 0-6-1 in games 29-35.
"I think the guys have bought into it and that has been our mindset since the start of the season," Hartley said.
How the Flames finish their current seven-game segment will go a long way in determining the success of this road trip, and the legitimacy of their playoff position.
Calgary still has to play the Rangers, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, and Philadelphia Flyers before it starts a new segment with games at the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, and Ottawa Senators. They don't play at home again until March 11 against the Anaheim Ducks.
"We believe in ourselves," Flames captain Mark Giordano said. "We believe we're good enough to compete with any team on any given night. And the teams that are surrounding us in the standings, we believe we can finish ahead of them. We need to get points."
Giordano said the key is getting points early on this trip. The good news is the Flames don't have to travel much in order to finish out this current segment.
They're holding up in the same New York City hotel to play the Rangers on Tuesday, the Devils on Wednesday, and the Islanders on Friday. They'll go to Philadelphia for three days after that and play the Flyers on March 3.
"The traveling is going to be way easier than out west, but at the same time the games are being played on the ice," Hartley said. "We have a good schedule, and it's up to us to take advantage of it.
"We understand the situation we're in and we're enjoying it because for the first time in quite a few years we're playing games that mean something. Is it a big trip? Yes. That's the way the schedule is done. But at the same time we put ourselves in that situation and it's very positive."
The Rangers, meanwhile, are just trying to keep a good thing going, and that means their goals have to keep coming. They are 9-1-2 with 50 goals for in their past 12 games, including 7-1-2 with 40 goals since goalie Henrik Lundqvist was forced out of the lineup with a vascular injury.
It's a good thing the Rangers have scored so much because they have also allowed 30 goals in the 10 games that Lundqvist has missed. Goalie Cam Talbot, who will be making his 10th start in the past 11 games, has a .895 save percentage since replacing Lundqvist as the No. 1 goalie.
"Honestly our discussions have been about making sure we protect more, but for whatever reason we've been scoring more," Rangers center Derek Stepan said. "I don't know what that is. I think if you ask our head coach, our head coach would like to win more 1-0 games, but as of right now that's just the way it's going. We have to continue to work on protecting, but you also have to win hockey games and regardless of how that ends up--winning a game--that's how you have to do it. One thing that has really impressed me with our group is we lost Hank and we've just found ways to win hockey games. That's what good teams do. That's what you have to do."
Here are the projected lineups:
Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Jiri Hudler
Lance Bouma - Mikael Backlund - David Jones
Curtis Glencross - Joe Colborne - Josh Jooris
Brandon Bollig - Markus Granlund - Mason Raymond
Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie
Kris Russell - Dennis Wideman
Raphael Diaz - Deryk Engelland
Scratched: Matt Stajan (not with team), Corey Potter, Emile Poirier, Michael Ferland
Injured: Paul Byron (lower body), Ladislav Smid (upper body)
Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Martin St. Louis
Carl Hagelin - Kevin Hayes - J.T. Miller
Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - Lee Stempniak
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Kevin Klein
Matt Hunwick - Dan Boyle
Scratched: John Moore
Injured: Jesper Fast (knee), Henrik Lundqvist (neck)
Status report: Rangers coach Alain Vigneault wouldn't commit to his lineup because he said there are still some players who will be game-time decisions for injuries or flu-like symptoms. John Moore, though, skated with the scratches Tuesday morning while Hunwick did not. … Similarly, Hartley wouldn't commit to a lineup because of having call-ups Poirier and Ferland with the club. If Poirier plays he would be making his NHL debut. They were recalled from the American Hockey League on Monday. … Stajan is with his wife, who is due to give birth. … Expect to see Boyle and St. Louis back on the Rangers' top power-play unit against the Flames. Vigneault had them on the top unit in practice on Monday, replacing McDonagh and Zuccarello. The Rangers are 1-for-17 on the power play in their past seven games.
Who's hot: Hagelin has four points on two goals and two assists in his current three-game point scoring streak. Staal has assists in back to back games and six points in his past seven games. … Monahan has six points in his current four-game point scoring streak. Wideman has three assists in the past two games and seven assists in the past six games. Bouma has goals in back to back games and four in the past six games.