One month ago, the Calgary Flames' playoff hopes were sinking. Now they find themselves with a chance to move into a tie for a postseason berth when they host the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday
The Flames (36-26-15, 87 points) are two points back of the Winnipeg Jets, who hold the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference with five games remaining for both clubs. A win on Tuesday would put that playoff spot on the line Wednesday, when the Flames and Jets square off in Winnipeg
"Every year at this time of the year you check the standings and scores more than you do earlier in the year or at midseason," forward Mikael Backlund said. "Of course you check how Winnipeg is doing. At the same time, we've got to take care of our own business first and win our games. If we don't do that it doesn't matter."
Calgary has won four straight entering Tuesday's tilt and is 9-3-2 since losing five straight from Feb. 23 to March 4.
"I think (the belief) is maybe the strongest it's been all year right now," forward Blake Coleman said. "Guys are feeling confident in their games. It's still going to be hard work. It's still an uphill climb. It's not easy to leapfrog a team in the standings at this time of year and this few games left. But I like where we're at and I like our group right now. As long as guys keep this preparation and buy-in. It's going to be a real exciting last couple of weeks."
The Flames have won their last two games despite trailing after two periods, something they had not done all season before this past weekend. Milan Lucic and Michael Stone scored third-period goals Sunday to rally the Flames past the Anaheim Ducks, 5-4
"Even the games we weren't winning, they were close games and we were in it," forward Tyler Toffoli said. "(Jacob Markstrom) was keeping us in games. It's that time of the year and when things are stressful, there's no panic in our room. We just keep playing and don't change the way we play and we grind games out."
The Blackhawks (24-46-6, 54 points) find themselves in sole possession of the NHL's basement. They've lost eight in a row, the third time this season they've had such a streak
It was clear from the get-go that the only thing general manager Kyle Davidson hoped to win this season was the draft lottery, as he traded away the likes of Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach during the offseason and Patrick Kane prior to the trade deadline last month.
Captain Jonathan Toews was also expected to be among those finding new homes, but ongoing battles with long COVID-19 and chronic immune response syndrome have limited his appearances this season.
The 34-year-old returned to the lineup Saturday against the New Jersey Devils, his first game since Jan. 28, and played 14 minutes while picking up an assist.
"It was good to have him back," coach Luke Richardson said. "I thought he was a big presence on the bench, very vocal, and made a nice play (on Andreas Athanasiou's goal) ... I thought he gave us some energy."
Forward Taylor Raddysh is enjoying a career year in his first full season in Chicago, with 37 points (20 goals, 17 assists) in 76 games. He has four assists in his past two games and is the only Blackhawks player to play in every game so far this season
--Field Level Media