With a nine-point lead in the Northwest Division, the Calgary Flames might not need another frantic push to reach the playoffs for a fifth straight time.
Continuing their strong play at home would certainly help.
But to win for the ninth time in 10 games at the Pengrowth Saddledome, the Flames (28-14-4) on Wednesday night will have to slow down the Buffalo Sabres (25-18-5), who scored 10 goals in their previous game and are 4-1-0 in their last five.
The past two seasons, Calgary didn’t clinch a postseason berth until its 81st game. Having won 12 of thier past 16 games, though, has the Flames in better shape heading into season’s final months.
They did hit a small bump before the break, losing two straight before rebounding with a 5-4 shootout win Jan. 21 over visiting Columbus. Calgary got a boost with the return of Todd Bertuzzi, who scored the only goal in the tiebreaker after missing five games with a groin injury.
“He won the game for us. I’d call that an impact,” teammate Michael Cammalleri said. “He played really well. He was skating well. He obviously fills a big role in our lineup and it’s very nice to have him back.”
Cammalleri also scored twice, giving him eight goals in the last six games and a team-leading 22. He has also recorded 10 points during a six-game streak.
Jarome Iginla, Calgary’s lone All-Star representative, has six points during a four-game streak, and a team-leading 53.
After averaging 2.87 goals during their first 30 games, The Flames have scored 59 times in the past 16 - 3.69 per contest. They have been particularly potent with the man-advantage, tallying 11 power-play goals in their last 44 opportunities.
While Calgary has picked up its offense, the Sabres came out of the break in a big way. Buffalo scored twice in the first 71 seconds and cruised to a 10-2 rout of Edmonton on Tuesday.
“We worked really hard tonight and it was one of those games where everything was going in for us,” said forward Clarke MacArthur, who had a pair of assists. “It’s a great confidence booster for us coming back from the break.”
Drew Stafford recorded his second career hat trick, and Tim Connolly had two goals and an assist. Thomas Vanek also added his team-leading 29th goal and two assists, and Derek Roy tied a season high with three points.
The Sabres have scored 22 times over the past five games with 11 different players contributing. They’ve also scored six times in the last 16 power-play chances, including a 3-for-6 performance on Tuesday.
Connolly has scored five times in the past four contests, and Jason Pominville has eight assists during a five-game points streak. Vanek has recorded a point in four straight games with two goals and five assists, and Roy — the team leader with 47 points—has 17 in his last 13 games.
The teams haven’t faced each other since Buffalo’s 3-2 shootout win on Feb. 10, 2007, and haven’t played in Calgary since the Flames’ 4-1 victory on Jan. 21, 2006.