Flames aim to cool Coyotes
CALGARY, Alberta -- The Arizona Coyotes were eliminated from playoff contention quite some time ago, but that hasn't stopped them from playing some inspired hockey as of late.
After blanking the St. Louis Blues 6-0 at home on Sunday, the Coyotes (28-40-11) will look to keep their recent string of success going when they face the Calgary Flames (36-33-10) at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday.
"The last two months, we could have easily packed it in," said Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet, whose team has won three of four games and has gone 16-8-2 dating back to Feb. 8. "We weren't going to let them pack it in. They've bought in. I've got to give a lot of guys credit for that. It's easy when you're out of the playoffs to give up and we haven't given up."
Goalie Antti Raanta stopped all 34 shots he faced on Sunday to pick up his third shutout of the season.
"The guys were helping me out," said Raanta, who was named the NHL's second star of the week on Monday after going 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and .964 save percentage over the previous seven days. "When I needed to make a save I was able to make it."
The Coyotes have also been getting key contributions from rookie forwards Dylan Strome, who had three assists against the Blues, and Clayton Keller, who was named the NHL's rookie of the month for March.
"I think our team's playing really well right now," Keller told the team website. "I think that's the main thing I'm focused on and my play will take care of itself."
Meanwhile, the Flames snapped a miserable seven-game losing streak -- one that took them right out of playoff contention -- by edging the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 at home on Saturday night.
"This is the first time in a long time since we've been out of it that the cloud's lifted a little bit for us," said Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan, who commended his players for coming up with a gritty effort against the Oilers. "It's been hard on our guys emotionally. They looked a little bit more like themselves. What we've (gone) through here in the last three weeks, we've had lots of guys that have stepped up and have stayed dirty and fought."
Forward Mikael Backlund was happy that he and his teammates could reward Calgary's loyal fans with a win on home ice where the Flames have struggled this season with a 16-19-4 record.
"It's been a really tough stretch, so to get a win it's a big energy boost and confidence boost for the guys in the room here," said Backlund, who's hoping the Flames can finish the season with two more wins at home against the Coyotes on Tuesday and versus the surprising Vegas Golden Knights in their last game of the season on Saturday. "We're pretty excited to get a win (over the Oilers), especially at home. We struggled this year and wanted to get a win, especially against our biggest rivals and in front of our fans."
Updated April 2, 2018