Preview: Flames vs. Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets and Calgary Flames are in last place in their respective divisions, but there is room for optimism after winning their most recent games.
The Blue Jackets haven't won consecutive contests all season and the Flames have done so once heading into Monday night's matchup at Nationwide Arena.
Both teams missed the playoffs last season, and there isn't much reason to believe either will get there in 2011-12. Columbus (4-13-2) is at the bottom of the Central Division and Calgary (8-9-1) is in the basement of the Northwest.
The Blue Jackets, however, have been better during a 2-1-1 stretch and ended a 17-game losing streak in Nashville with Saturday's 4-3 overtime win on James Wisniewski's first goal with his new club.
Columbus also ended a 13-game road skid after dropping Thursday's shootout at Boston.
"I've heard it too long about how long it has been since we've won here, and the guys were really built up from the other night in Boston and played a great game," coach Scott Arniel said.
The Flames, meanwhile, ended a three-game home slide with a 5-2 win over Chicago on Friday. Calgary scored twice during those home losses before Curtis Glencross helped get the offense untracked with two goals and an assist.
"It's been the big knock on us that we haven't scored goals this year," right wing Lee Stempniak said. "Goaltending has been good and the defense has been good. We're just not scoring enough goals to win games."
Columbus has been buoyed by goaltender Curtis Sanford, who had missed a month with a lower-body injury. Sanford has started the last two games with Steve Mason struggling, and the veteran made 27 saves Saturday.
"We have a lot of new faces in here, myself included," Sanford said. "I don't think you can really look at history. This is a new team."
Sanford is 1-4-0 with a 3.07 goals-against average in five starts against Calgary while Mason is 3-1-1 with a 2.17 GAA in five at home versus the Flames.
Miikka Kiprusoff is 15-5-2 with a 2.10 GAA against Columbus, but 4-5-0 with a 2.53 GAA on the road.
The Flames are starting a four-game trip after splitting their first eight road contests.
"We obviously have a ways to go and we gotta start climbing here and we gotta take it just a game at a time," coach Brent Sutter said. "There's no easy games in the National Hockey League, and there's no easy buildings to play in the National Hockey League."
Calgary went 3-1-0 against Columbus last season, with Jarome Iginla totaling a team-high seven points. Iginla has one in his last five contests.
The Flames limited Rick Nash to one goal and no assists last season. Nash has failed to score in seven straight games.
Calgary owns one of the league's worst power plays, converting just 12.5 percent. Columbus, though, is the NHL's worst on the penalty kill at 73.1 percent.
"We haven't scored a lot of goals 5-on-5 and we need to pick that up," Sutter said. "Obviously, our power play hasn't been where we want it to be."