|Flames, Red Wings taking different steps forward|
The warning signs were there for the Calgary Flames to heed. Sure, they were winning games and sitting atop the Western Conference standings, but everybody knew the Flames weren't running on all cylinders and a day of reckoning would come.
So, when the Flames dropped a 4-3 overtime tilt to the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night and saw their five-game winning streak come to a halt, the easy thing for head coach Bill Peters to say would have been, "I told you so."
Except, Peters and the Flames (30-13-5) saw the defeat as a step forward.
"We gave up two shots in the third (period)," Peters said in the aftermath.
"I didn't mind (our game) ... we did a lot of good things," he added.
The test will be how the Flames respond, starting with Friday's home clash against the Detroit Red Wings (18-23-7) to end a five-game homestand in which they've posted a 3-0-1 record. A rebound with a strong performance against the Red Wings could be a sign the Flames are trending the right way, which at this time in the season - and with their spot in the standings - is just as important as a victory.
"We weren't as bad as we've been in past games," captain Mark Giordano said. "They capitalized on some of their looks and get the win. If we would've won in overtime it would've masked things again, but we'll work on things."
The Flames, who will follow the Detroit game by meeting the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night in an important Battle of Alberta, should have forward James Neal back in the lineup after he missed the Buffalo game because of an illness. But it's likely they'll be without defenseman Travis Hamonic for a third consecutive contest due to a family illness.
Calgary will go into the game with several players riding streaks. For starters, Johnny Gaudreau, who became the third-fastest player in franchise history to hit the 70-point mark in a season (48 games), is riding a nine-game streak in which he's collected nine goals and 20 points. Only Kent Nilsson (46 games in 1980-81) and Bob MacMillan (47 games 1978-79) hit the 70-point mark more quickly.
Matthew Tkachuk is on a six-game run with six goals and eight points, Giordano (five games, 3-6-9) and Elias Lindholm (five games 1-6-7) are also piling up points.
You can't say they're rolling, but the Red Wings arrive in Calgary to kick off a three-game Western Canada road trip having won consecutive games for the first time since victories Nov. 28 and Dec. 1, 2018.
The Red Wings, who beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 on Tuesday, are in dire need of a winning streak to have any playoff hopes remaining.
"In the last month we've played good hockey, but at the end of the day this league is about results," forward Thomas Vanek said.
More realistically for the Red Wings, though, is development through their rebuild.
"I think a lot of times with young players, it's a process to learn how to play with the lead," head coach Jeff Blashill said. "It's a process to learn how to win tight games. It's a process to understand how to manage your game, how to manage risk-reward, because that's what it comes down to lots of times. So it's 100 percent a process."
"Our young guys have been real important pieces of this team, they've been through the growing pains," Blashill added. "There's ups and downs that have gone with it, but I think there's a growth process that's been real important that I'm excited about."
--Field Level Media