Calgary Flames coach Brent Sutter acknowledges his team's defense is a work in progress. It may need to make a lot of progress for the Flames to overcome their next opponent.
Alex Ovechkin looks to continue both his recent surge and his success against the Flames on Tuesday night when the host Washington Capitals go for their fourth consecutive victory, potentially getting a major boost with defenseman Mike Green back in the lineup.
The Flames (18-17-5) began their season-high seven-game road trip in promising fashion with wins over Vancouver and Columbus, but they've allowed 12 goals while dropping all three games since then. Jarome Iginla, Rene Bourque and Brendan Morrison all scored Sunday night, but it wasn't enough as Calgary fell 5-3 to Nashville.
"We scored three here and we still lost the game," Sutter said. "It tells you that defensively we're not where we need to be. There are too many mistakes and it is costing us."
More mistakes would likely cost the Flames dearly against Washington (20-15-2), which has scored 11 goals during its three-game winning streak. The Capitals fell behind by two goals at Columbus on Saturday but rallied to score four in a span of less than seven minutes in the third period of a 4-2 victory.
"It's a good win and some momentum," said Ovechkin, who had two of the goals. "We want to keep going."
Though impressive, Saturday's four-goal outburst was small potatoes compared to what Ovechkin and the Capitals did the last time they faced the Flames. Ovechkin scored two power-play goals in 12 seconds and added an assist as Washington used a six-goal second period to rout Calgary 7-2 at the Saddledome on Oct. 30, 2010.
That contest marked the first time the Flames had allowed six goals in a period since Jan. 7, 1984.
Green had three points that night after posting 76 in 2009-10 to lead all NHL defensemen. He's battled a series of injuries since then, however, limiting him to eight games this season - none since Nov. 11.
The team said Tuesday morning that he's expected to return against the Flames. The Capitals are 8-0-0 with Green in the lineup in 2011-12.
"This will be a great day for me, but I'm very unsure of how it will go," Green said. "You never know."
Following a sluggish start with eight goals in Washington's first 29 games, Ovechkin is back in top form. He has seven goals in his last eight, and six goals with three assists during a six-game point streak.
"I feel good," said Ovechkin, who has five goals and five assists in five career games versus Calgary with at least one point in each contest. "I feel my shot coming back. They give me the puck and when I have the opportunity, I shoot it."
The next time Iginla shoots the puck, he could reach a milestone. The Calgary captain needs one goal to join Jaromir Jagr and Teemu Selanne as the only active players with 500 in their careers. He would also be the first player to score 500 goals for the Flames.
Iginla has eight goals and 11 assists in his last 16 games. Teammate Olli Jokinen has been nearly as hot, with seven goals and 11 assists in that span.
Iginla failed to show up on the scoresheet in last season's loss to the Capitals, snapping a personal six-game point streak versus Washington. Jokinen had a goal in that matchup.
Calgary concludes its trip Thursday against reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston.