The Calgary Flames got off to a rough start in the month of December with six losses in their first eight games, a stretch made worse by a 1-4-0 record at home. Calgary has responded to that slide with a pair of impressive victories and can reach the .500 mark at Scotiabank Saddledome when it hosts the Montreal Canadiens on Friday.
The Flames rebounded from a three-game skid with a 6-1 drubbing of the Canucks in Vancouver before squeezing out a 2-1 home win over St. Louis on Wednesday. “Believe in what we’re doing and if we’re playing well, the wins are going to come,” said defenseman Dougie Hamilton, who scored the decisive tally against the Blues. “We just have to stick with it and we’ve done that and got rewarded the last two games.” Montreal opened its seven-game road trip with a 3-0 loss at Ottawa in the NHL100 Classic, but bounced back with a rare offensive eruption in a 7-5 victory at Vancouver on Tuesday. The Canadiens dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the Flames in Montreal two weeks ago and have lost eight of their 10 visits to Calgary.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, RDS, TSN2 (Montreal), Sportsnet West (Calgary)
ABOUT THE CANADIENS (15-15-4): The impetus for Montreal’s offensive outburst against Vancouver was, surprisingly, fueled by the fourth line of Nicolas Deslauriers, Daniel Carr and Byron Froese, who combined for five points in the victory. “I‘m not here for my points,” said Deslauriers, who had 13 goals in his previous 225 career games. “But if I can contribute like this and take some pressure off our top line, it means a lot.” The line could be shuffled, though, with the imminent return of Artturi Lehkonen.
ABOUT THE FLAMES (18-14-3): Calgary has gone 11 straight games without being outshot by an opponent and continues to ratchet up the defensive intensity, surrendering 13 regulation goals over the past eight contests. “We’re trying to accomplish something that’s going to help us win not only now, but in the playoffs when things do get tight,” coach Glen Gulutzan said. Sean Monahan scored a pair of goals at Montreal on Dec. 7, including the game-winner in OT, but has just one assist in the six games since.
1. Canadiens G Carey Price is 4-5-1 with a 2.78 goals-against average versus Calgary.
2. Flames D Travis Hamonic was not at practice Thursday after exiting Wednesday’s game with an injury.
3. Montreal captain Max Pacioretty had two assists versus Vancouver but is mired in a 16-game goal drought.
PREDICTION: Canadiens 3, Flames 2