Flames need to convert in final 'Eastern' games
Before the Calgary Flames can determine whether they can climb into the top eight of the Western Conference and reach the playoffs, they'll need to finish up their slate of games against Eastern Conference clubs on a high note.
The Flames host Montreal Tuesday and Winnipeg Thursday — their final interconference games — before embarking on a span of eight games in 14 days Sunday against the teams they're jockeying with in the West.
Calgary (29-25-12) is 11th in the West, four points behind San Jose for the final spot (the Sharks have played fewer games, so three points wouldn't put the Flames in eighth).
Should the Flames fail to reach the playoffs for a third consecutive season, their record in extra time games as well as in contests against Eastern Conference foes will bear scrutiny.
Calgary dropped to 4-10 in games that go beyond 60 minutes, the second worst record of its kind in the NHL, with a shootout loss to Dallas in their most recent outing.
"It hasn't been easy losing those shootout games," captain Jarome Iginla said after the 3-2 defeat. "I honestly do feel they can go either way. We need to keep going, moving forward and work on getting the next game."
Iginla reached the 25-goal plateau for the 13th consecutive season in the loss, while Curtis Glencross found the mark for the fourth consecutive game.
But the result meant that Calgary has now dropped five straight at home (0-2-3). The last victory at Saddledome was Feb. 14 against Toronto.
The Flames have also garnered just 13 of a possible 32 points against Eastern teams (4-7-5), with notable blown leads leads in games against Ottawa and Philadelphia.
The Habs and Flames engaged in a high profile trade of forwards in January, but the truth is that neither high-priced player has provided a huge spark.
Rene Bourque has four goals and two assists in 22 games with Montreal, while Mike Cammalleri has compiled six goals and five assists in 23 games with Calgary.
Cammalleri won't play against the Habs on Tuesday after suffering an upper body injury against the Stars.
With Lance Bouma and Blake Comeau also on the mend up front, Calgary has recalled Guillaume Desbiens, Krys Kolanos and Greg Nemisz.
The Flames haven't hosted the Canadiens at the Saddledome in about 2 ½ years, as last year the Calgary game between the clubs was staged outdoors at McMahon Stadium.
Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff is 5-0-0 with a 1.84 goals-against average and two shutouts in his last six starts against Montreal and turned aside 35 shots in a 4-1 road victory Oct. 13.
Montreal is 2-7-1 in its last 10 games, and it seems clear fans of the Canadiens should start thinking more about what high-prized draft pick the Habs will get in June rather than playoffs.
The Canadiens were outshot 42-22 in Saturday's 3-1 loss to Toronto.
Montreal (25-31-12) begins a four-game road trip that will include games at Edmonton, Vancouver and Buffalo.