Flames on roll entering matchup against Hurricanes

February 26, 2017

The Carolina Hurricanes could use a little more confidence, but that’s something that might be in the works.

The Calgary Flames seem to already have grasped some of the good vibes, pulling into playoff position in the Western Conference.

The teams meet Sunday afternoon at PNC Arena.

“Everyone is starting to contribute on any given night,” Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan said. “We want to put ourselves in position in March to get ourselves into the playoffs.”

The Flames, who are coming off Friday night’s victory at Florida, arrive with a three-game winning streak and are 4-0-1 in their last five games.

Carolina won for the first time in six games with Friday night’s 3-0 victory against the Ottawa Senators.

That result brought certain overtones, particularly with goalie Eddie Lack registering his first shutout in more than a year.

Lack has dealt with a concussion and plenty of down time the past few months, so he made the most of his rare opportunity.

“It has been a little rough for me here and there,” he said. “It’s a really important win for me.”

It’s expected to lead to another chance right away for Lack. The shutout will be difficult for Carolina coach Bill Peters to ignore when determining the lineup for the Calgary game.

“That will factor into the decision,” he said.

If Lack receives the call, it will again delay the 600th career start for veteran goalie Cam Ward.

Peters said the Hurricanes use the confidence from players who are offered increased roles. He said that should translate into a new level of aggression, which if properly challenged should be advantageous.

“That’s what we’ve got to continue to focus on is being aggressive offensively without being high risk,” Peters said.

Sunday’s matchup wraps up a five-game road trip for the Flames.

Gulutzan has seen the Flames come together at a critical juncture of the season. It has started in net, mostly recently with Chad Johnson’s 36-save outing, and spread.

“Over the last little bit, our goalies have given us a lot of belief,” Gulutzan said. “I think that we’ve executed at a pretty good level.”

Now that the Flames have risen in the Western Conference, this is no time for a drop-off.

“Our goaltending has been great. We’re staying in games, we’re getting some leads,” Calgary captain Mark Giordano said. “Desperation is the theme right now. We don’t want to let it slip. It’s easy to take your foot off the gas sometimes.”

Carolina’s confidence comes with some relative new-found contributors. Aside from Lack, there’s left winger Phillip Di Giuseppe, who has three assists in three games since returning from a two-month stint in the minor leagues.

“It has been positive,” Di Giuseppe said of the mood around the team. ”(Winning) helps the confidence a bit.”

The Hurricanes will monitor rookie left wing Brock McGinn, who, according to Peters, was dinged in Friday night’s game and is unlikely to play Sunday.

The teams met on Oct. 20, with the Hurricanes winning 4-2 in what was their first victory of the season. That was Lack’s only win this season until Friday night.