The Calgary Flames are tied for the highest point total in the Western Conference.
They are coming off a road trip in which they won three of four outings, and they haven’t dropped consecutive games in regulation since mid-November, piling up a 17-5-3 mark in their last 25 tilts.
And now they have a golden opportunity to gain an even firmer hold of their perch.
When the Flames face the visiting Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, they kick off a five-game homestand and a stretch in which six of seven outings will be at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
And Calgary is not exactly facing a Murderer’s Row of opposition over the next couple of weeks. Of those seven opponents, only two — the Avalanche and the Sabres — can currently boast holding a playoff spot. Colorado and Buffalo are both in wild-card spots.
“We have an opportunity to take advantage of a schedule,” Flames coach Bill Peters admitted. “We believe we’re going to win, as long as we do the right things. And when we’re not playing well, the guys know it, too. So guys know they can dig in. When we get all four lines going and three sets of D, we’re a dangerous team.”
A dangerous team with some dangerous players. The Flames boast a league-best four skaters who have already reached the 50-point mark: Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan and the headliner of the crew, Johnny Gaudreau.
The last NHL squad with four players to reach the 50-point mark by the team’s 45th game was the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1995-96, featuring Ron Francis, Jaromir Jagr, Mario Lemieux and Tomas Sandstrom — and it happened nearly two years before Tkachuk was born.
Gaudreau, Monahan and Lindholm have been among the league’s most prolific lines all season, but they taken their game to a new level lately, combining for 12 goals and 33 points in the past five games.
Gaudreau is riding a five-game point streak in which he’s amassed seven goals and 13 points.
“I’m getting on the scoresheet, which is nice, but our team’s playing well. We’re getting better every single game,” Gaudreau said. “Coming out of that Christmas break, we didn’t like where we were at and kind of came back a little slow. And I think we’ve been getting better and better each game and finding a way to win games.”
The Avalanche have been going in a different direction, producing just one victory in eight games (1-5-2). They arrive in Calgary on the heels of a 7-4 road loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday to kick off a five-game road trip.
“(We’re) playing some of the top teams in the league on this road trip, so it is going to take a real strong team effort, mental focus, a stick-to-itiveness from our group,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “We will have to be a resilient group on this road trip … and hopefully we will build some confidence by beating some good teams here.”
Those hopes got off to a rocky start Tuesday despite two goals from Gabriel Landeskog. Colorado goalie Philipp Grubauer stopped just 14 of the 20 Winnipeg shots he faced.