The Calgary Flames, looking to rebound after their seven-game winning streak was halted, will host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday.
The Flames had not lost in regulation in nine games before a 4-0 home setback against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.
Calgary wants Saturday’s loss to be a mere blip on the screen.
“We talked about it … 8-1-1 in our last 10, beat some really good teams on the road, played some really good games at home as well,” Flames forward Derek Ryan said. “If you would have told us that we’d have that record in that 10-game segment, we would have taken that all day long.”
It’s been a strong turnaround under interim coach Geoff Ward, a longtime assistant who replaced Bill Peters on Nov. 25.
The Flames were struggling, but Ward mixed up the lines and got a boost in production.
Ward also has preached having a narrow focus that concentrates on the near future, and only the near future.
“When you lose, I think what you do is you need to have a short memory in this game,” Ward said. “You take out of the game what you need to take out of it, and you start preparing to win again. For us, the coaches, we’ll take a look at (the loss). Hopefully, the players put it away.
“We’re going to look at short segments of the schedule. This past segment has been excellent, and now we have to get on with our next short segment. That will start with Pittsburgh on Tuesday.”
Prior to Saturday, Calgary’s last loss was a 3-2 overtime setback in Pittsburgh on Nov. 25.
The Penguins are 6-3-0 since the win against the Flames, including 5-1-0 in their last six.
Tuesday’s game starts a four-stop trip through the Western Conference that extends through the Christmas break. Pittsburgh is 12-3-1 against West representatives.
The Penguins have been hit hard by injuries. Team captain Sidney Crosby will miss his only chance this season to play in western Canada. He had core muscle surgery last month.
One bright spot is that fellow star center Evgeni Malkin seems likely to play Tuesday after missing the past two games because of illness. He participated in practice Monday with no apparent restrictions.
Pittsburgh has played only six of 33 games with Crosby and Malkin in the lineup, in addition to several other absences. And yet the team has remained more than competitive.
One player who has bolstered the Penguins is winger Bryan Rust. Although the start to his season was delayed by a broken hand, Rust has 12 goals and 22 points in 19 games.
Rust had two goals and an assist and then converted in the shootout for a 5-4 win over the Los Angeles Kings.
“The game is fun right now,” Rust said. “I’m just trying to take it in stride, trying to get better every day. Things are going well right now.”
That sentiment could extend to the whole team.
“Our guys are playing hard. They’re competing,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.
–Field Level Media