CALGARY â€” Red hot but hurting on their blue-line, the Calgary Flames are a win away from their longest winning streak since the franchise moved from Atlanta in 1980.
The Flames (37-26-4) head to Winnipeg looking for their ninth consecutive victory Saturday, which would also keep the heat on the teams closest to them in the Pacific Division â€” the Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Ducks.
Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan said Friday he awaited medical reports on defencemen Dougie Hamilton (leg) and Michael Stone (shoulder), who were injured in the previous night’s 5-0 drubbing of the Montreal Canadiens.
Gulutzan expected one, but not both, to make the trip to Winnipeg to face the Jets (30-32-6).
“We’re hoping one of them can play and one of them can play shortly,” he said.
Gulutzan will give another update on their status after Saturday’s pre-game skate.
Dennis Wideman, a healthy scratch since Stone was acquired Feb. 20 from the Arizona Coyotes, is expected to rotate back into the lineup.
“I want to play and if it’s tomorrow, I’ll be ready to go,” the 33-year-old Wideman said. “With the guys going as well as they’re going, I think you’re just trying to come in and add to that and if not, just not take away from it.”
The Flames also called up defenceman Rasmus Andersson from their AHL affiliate in Stockton, Calif., on Friday.
Brian Elliott has started in seven of Calgary’s eight straight wins, with Chad Johnson making 36 saves Feb. 24 against the Florida Panthers for the other victory
Gulutzan said he wants to give Elliott a night off soon, as the Flames are now playing a game every second night for the rest of the regular season.
“That’s coming. I don’t know if it’s going to be tomorrow,” Gulutzan said. “I know we’ve won eight in a row now, but remember Chad was part of that in Florida in a huge performance.”
The Flames posted a 10-game winning streak in 1978 when they played out of Atlanta.
Hovering in a Western Conference wild-card spot since January, Calgary is making a serious charge at a division playoff spot.
Calgary last made the post-season in 2015, when they reached the second round before falling to Anaheim in five games.
Flames captain Mark Giordano checks the standings daily and is more curious about who is above his team than below at this point.
“Our mindset right now is we’re trying to move up,” Giordano said. “We’ve come a long way in simplifying our game. Managing the puck has been a big part of it so we’ve got to continue that.”
Their lopsided win over Montreal pulled Calgary’s plus-minus into the black for the first time this season to plus-2.
While it’s tempting to give the arrival of Stone and his quick chemistry with T.J. Brodie a lot of credit for Calgary’s improving defence, Elliott says it’s been the forwards making his life easier.
“You look at the forwards and they’re coming back hard,” the goalie said. “If the puck’s turned over, everybody is working hard to get back over top and we’ve been able to break up plays before they get to our blue-line.
“That allows our D to gap up and everybody to just play a little bigger, a little more confident and you’re going the other way more often than not. They always say the best defence is a good offence.”
Mikael Backlund has become Calgary’s standout two-way player at plus-12 with 20 goals and 27 assists.
“Selke Backlund,” Elliott said in reference to the NHL’s award that goes to the top defensive forward. “We’ve been saying that all year.
“You ask the D who they want to give it to on a breakout pass. He always takes care of the puck and it always ends up the other zone 100 per cent of the time.”
Leading scorer Johnny Gaudreau has been fined $2,000 by the NHL for embellishment in Sunday’s win over the New York Islanders.
Islander forward Josh Ho-Sang and Gaudreau took off-setting minors in the second period for holding and embellishment respectively.
Gaudreau was given an initial warning for the same infraction Dec. 23, and was fined for a second offence, the league said in a statement Friday.
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press