Mon, 24 Feb 2020

Flames eye Pacific lead in matchup vs. reeling Senators

Field Level Media
18 Jan 2020, 08:19 GMT+10

The Calgary Flames can head into their bye week and All-Star break with at least a share of first place in the Pacific Division with a victory at the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.

It will be the final game for 10 days for the Flames, who enter the weekend tied with Arizona at the top of the Pacific with 57 points and also with a game in hand. The Coyotes play Saturday at Edmonton, which is just two points behind.

Calgary has won six of its last seven games, including a 2-1 shootout victory at Toronto on Thursday night.

Matthew Tkachuk scored the game-winner in the second round of the shootout. David Rittich, who was named to the All-Star Game as a replacement for Arizona's Darcy Kuemper on Tuesday, finished with 35 saves and also stopped Jason Spezza, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner in the shootout.

"He was excellent," Calgary coach Geoff Ward said of Rittich. "When we needed a save, he made it."

"You want to reward him," added Tkachuk. "You want to do everything in your power to win the game for him. He was our best player tonight, easily. ... We were committed defensively tonight, and Ritter was fantastic."

Ward was pleased with his team's defensive effort against a Toronto squad that is averaging 3.60 goals per game this season.

"We kept them -- from our count -- in that 14 to 16 range in scoring chances," Ward said. "That was good by us and we found a way. ... All in all, I think we can be pleased with the game and now we'll move on to Ottawa."

The Senators, who are in seventh place in the Atlantic Division, also head into break after Saturday's contest and are desperate for a win for a completely different reason. Ottawa has lost a season-long nine in a row, including four past regulation.

"For sure we want to win that last game going into the break," Senators coach D.J. Smith said. "I think we've been in overtime in (four) of them. We could have had some wins. It's not ideal when you are dealing with young kids and confidence but as long as we keep (playing) hard and getting better."

Ottawa comes in off a 4-2 home loss to Vegas on Thursday in the Golden Knights' coaching debut of Peter DeBoer. It also marked the return of former Senators star Mark Stone for the first time since his deadline trade to Vegas last February. Stone, who responded with a goal and an assist, set up the opening tally 34 seconds into the game.

"They came out jumping," Smith said of the Golden Knights, who outshot Ottawa 17-10 in the first period. "We had a real tough first shift. You give up a grade-A chance right off the hop, a neutral-zone play, and they were shooting the puck from everywhere."

Smith said he was "hopeful" that center Jean-Gabriel Pageau, a late scratch after warm-ups on Thursday night with an upper-body injury, would play against Calgary. Pageau is second on the team in goals (19) and points (31) and leads the club with a plus-13 rating.

"I would think so, but I thought (he would) play tonight," Smith said. "I'm hopeful he will play against Calgary."

This is the second meeting between the two teams. The Flames, behind a pair of goals by center Elias Lindholm, posted a 3-1 win over Ottawa on Nov. 30 in Calgary.

--Field Level Media

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