NHL Hockey

Flames aim for better start after break vs. Blues

Coming out of the bye week has been a nightmare for the Calgary Flames the past couple of seasons. It's a brutal trend they can't afford to replicate this time around, starting with a Tuesday home clash against the St. Louis Blues.

Last season, the Flames lost five of six games after their break. In 2018, they dropped six straight, albeit four of them in extra time.

"We've talked about it, obviously," Calgary coach Geoff Ward told Postmedia. "We're right in the middle of a playoff race now, and every game is important to us, so we want to make sure we're ready coming off the break.

"It's nothing we're talking about a lot, but we do want to make sure we're controlling how we're preparing to play. ... But it's one game at a time for us, and right now we want to make sure we're ready to play Tuesday."

The Flames dropped two of three games prior to the break, the most recent being a 5-2 road defeat against the Ottawa Senators. Granted, they did win six of eight leading into that stretch, but their hold on a playoff position would disappear without turning those fortunes.

"The year before (2017-18) was not what we wanted, but I thought we learned from that last year and now we're one year older, one year wiser, one year more experienced," Flames forward Mikael Backlund said. "We know we have to come out stronger right away. There are big games, right away."

The Blues arrive in Calgary after kicking off a four-game road trip through Western Canada with a 3-1 loss at Vancouver on Monday night, despite outshooting the Canucks 37-26.

"Our game built as the game went on," said goaltender Jake Allen, who will likely serve as backup to Jordan Binnington in Calgary. "It's gotten better, we possessed the puck well, spent a lot of time in their zone, had some chances, but it wasn't our sharpest executing game. We've got another test (Tuesday) and gives us another chance to get back at it."

The defending Stanley Cup champion Blues, who lead the Western Conference, have dropped three consecutive games, but nobody is fretting greatly. Coach Craig Berube said his team played well to win in Vancouver but made a couple of mistakes it wasn't able to overcome because it didn't execute on enough scoring opportunities.

"We created a lot of good chances. We've got to bury a couple, and we didn't," Berube said. "We were aggressive. We were strong. We had the puck most of the game. Sometimes it goes that way. We're going to probably execute better (in Calgary)."

That theme was repeated in the locker room.

"We had some really good stretches and some not so good stretches (Monday), that's not going to work," Blues forward Zach Sanford said. "I think the boys are excited to get right back at it (on Tuesday)."

Despite the loss, the Blues benefited from having defenseman Colton Parayko back in the lineup after he missed seven games due to an upper-body injury.

--Field Level Media

Updated January 28, 2020

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