The Calgary Flames are only four points out of a playoff position with 35 games remaining in the regular season, but they are already feeling the pinch of a make-or-break situation as they prepare to host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.
The Flames, who head into the meeting on a three-game skid, can make no mistake about the importance of facing the Metropolitan Division’s last-place Blue Jackets.
“We’ve dropped three in a row at home, so that’s not something that’s OK,” Calgary coach Ryan Huska said. “We have to make sure we have a good day (Wednesday) and then we’re ready to play our best game of the year on Thursday.”
The Flames blew a two-goal lead en route to a 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, when the game-winning goal was scored in the final minute. Calgary has surrendered a two-goal edge in two of its past three losses.
“It’s bigger picture now,” Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom said. “You want to stick around and be in the hunt and in the mix and (Tuesday) was a tough one. We were up going into the third and I’ve got to come up with a few more saves (Tuesday) and then we’re sitting here with two points and a happy group.”
The Flames are in dire need of a boost and might receive one on Thursday. Smooth-skating defenseman Oliver Kylington, who has not played since the 2021-22 season while dealing with his mental health, might return to the lineup.
Kylington collected nine goals and 22 assists in 73 games during the 2021-22 campaign.
The Blue Jackets arrive after a 4-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday to begin a five-game road trip.
The game was tied 1-1 nearing the five-minute mark of the third period before the red-hot Oilers found an extra gear and pulled away.
“It’s part of the experience,” Blue Jackets coach Pascal Vincent said. “In the third period, you saw a team that turned the dial up a little bit and the other team didn’t sustain our way of playing. I think the intentions were right. We just didn’t execute it physically. We’re just not there yet.”
The Blue Jackets have only one victory in their past six games and are in a 3-6-4 rut as the rest of the Eastern Conference has pulled away.
They held their own for most of the game against the Oilers, who are riding a 14-game winning streak.
“We had a great start and for the first two periods, we were really carrying the play,” Columbus forward Adam Fantilli said. “We’re a team that can really disrupt the flow of a game with our speed, and I thought that was kind of our plan, to come out and play fast and be disruptive. I thought it was kind of going our way, (but) we got away from it at the end there.”
The Blue Jackets might also be receiving a boost. Defenseman Zach Werenski, who has missed the past 10 games due to an ankle injury, could return for the game. Forward Patrik Laine, out the past 15 games due to a broken collarbone, is also nearing a return to action.
–Field Level Media
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