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Improving Flames hit the road for clash with Coyotes
Victories in three of four games have the Calgary Flames holding out hope for their playoff chances. They know they cannot afford to step backwards when they kick off a quick two-game road trip Tuesday against the Arizona Coyotes in Tempe, Ariz.
Coming off Sunday’s 5-1 home victory over the Ottawa Senators, the Flames were five points out of a playoff position prior to Monday’s action with 15 games remaining in the regular season.
“We’ve got to keep going,” said defenseman Rasmus Andersson, who opened the scoring against Ottawa. “We’ve got to focus on ourselves and get every point we can get. We’ve got to battle night in, night out. We’ve got to get all the points we can get. I think this is a game we can build off, for sure.”
Calgary took advantage of a tired Senators club that played the night before in Vancouver, but the Flames showed a couple of elements that have been lacking all too often in games.
Almost immediately after the Senators made it a 2-1 game early in the second period, the Flames put down the hammer and restored a two-goal edge.
As well, it was much-maligned Jonathan Huberdeau and struggling center Nazem Kadri who played huge part in the goals that not only restored the two-goal edge but six minutes later made it a 4-1 game.
“We’re supposed to produce. It’s going to help the team if we do,” said Huberdeau, who was moved to his natural left-wing position after patrolling the right side for the past few months. “If we get on the scoresheet, we can get some wins. So until the end of the year, it’s going to be a big push for us.”
Even though the Coyotes are destined to miss the playoffs for the 10th time in 11 seasons, they have proven to be a tough club to beat, especially on home ice.
Arizona, which is coming off Sunday’s thrilling comeback 5-4 overtime victory over the Minnesota Wild, has a 3-0-2 record in its last five games.
The Coyotes trailed 4-2 late in the third period before Clayton Keller set up Brett Ritchie’s goal to make it a one-goal deficit and then scored the game-tying goal in the third period and overtime winner.
“I love this group of guys in here,” said Keller, who needs one goal to become Arizona’s first 30-goal scorer since the 2011-12 season. “We attack the challenge every single day.”
Keller on Monday was named the league’s first star of the week, and has collected four goals and 10 points in a five-game point streak. He is not the only one producing. Barrett Hayton scored twice in a four-point game, while Ritchie had a three-point outing.
The determination shown down the stretch is a big reason the Coyotes are riding a three-game home winning streak and have an impressive 17-11-3 record in Mullett Arena.
“We know we’re rebuilding, but every day we show up at the rink,” coach Andre Tourigny said. “You show up with a purpose and want to fight and want to build a culture.”
The Coyotes may receive a boost, with forward Christian Fischer a possibility to return after missing last game due to injury.