CALGARY — The Calgary Flames face a monumental task if they hope to get back into playoff contention this season.
They’ve got five points to make up between themselves and eighth-place Dallas, and the climb starts with a road game against the league-leading Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night. The Flames (12-14-4) have lost nine straight decisions on the road, going 0-8-1 during that span.
“We know how good and how strong this (Chicago) team is, but at the same time, we focus on our team,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said Monday, a day after Calgary’s 3-2 home win over St. Louis. “Looking at our situation, we’re five points away from eighth spot (in the NHL’s Western Conference) with a game in hand.
“Obviously we’ve been saying this for a long time now, but the only way that we’re going to be able to get back in the pack is to win at home and to win on the road. We’ve been winning at home, but now we have to turn it around on the road.”
The Flames have won seven straight at home, but they need to figure out how to replicate that success away from the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“It’s a mental thing,” said netminder Miikka Kiprusoff following a 36-save first-star performance in the win over the Blues. “We feel good at home because we have good fans here. You need to be able to win road games if you want to make the playoffs in this league.”
For the Flames to end their road woes, Hartley said his players have to put aside all distractions.
“I’ve been telling the players for the last week: our only motivation, the only thing we need to look at, is at the standings,” Hartley said. “Never mind anything else. Never mind power-play percentage, (penalty-kill) percentage, faceoff percentage, save percentage. Who cares? It’s all about the standings. If we don’t go up within a week or two, we might be out.”
Those distractions include speculation that captain Jarome Iginla could waive his no-movement clause, allowing the Flames to deal him prior to the NHL’s trade deadline on April 3.
“That shouldn’t be any surprise for anyone in this organization,” Hartley said. “It’s the time of year. At the same time, we knew with our players that would happen.
“For me, it’s business as usual. You just have to keep going. That’s part of being a hockey coach, that’s part of being a hockey player.”
Hartley says the Flames have the capability to end their road losing streak in Chicago before returning home to the next night to face the struggling Colorado Avalanche.
“If we could get a lead and play really strong like limiting turnovers and individual mistakes in our zone, I think we could come up with a big game and a big win and head back home to face the Avalanche the next night,” Hartley said.
The last time the Flames played the Blackhawks on Feb. 2 in Calgary, netminder Ray Emery made a career-high 45 saves to backstop Chicago to a 3-2 shootout win.
“That was criminal,” said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville after that game. “They’ve got to call the cops after that performance. (Emery) stole two points. He was spectacular.
“I’ve never ever been outplayed, outchanced like that in my life. That was a special performance and it continued on in the shootout.”
In that game, Calgary outshot Chicago 47-19 and still lost. On Sunday, it was the Flames who emerged with the victory over the Blues even though they were outshot by a 38-17 margin.
“That makes the beauty of our game,” Hartley said. “You never know the outcome. There’s no easy two points in this league any more.
“I remember when I was a kid watching some games and there was some games that were not even worth watching because you knew it would be a disaster. Today, with the parity in the league, I think it’s great. I believe that’s why so many fans love this game so much.”