Flames return home to face high-powered Leafs (Nov 28, 2017)


CALGARY, Alberta — Fresh off a six-game road trip, the Calgary Flames will kick off a four-game homestand when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night.

The Flames (13-9-1) skated to a 3-2 victory over the Avalanche on Saturday to finish the trip with a 3-2-1 record. Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan was pleased with his team’s play against Colorado.

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“We hope that that carries over against this (Maple Leafs) club, because we know how much they generate,” Gulutzan said following practice Monday at the Scotiabank Saddledome. “They generate chances at a high level, and they’ve got guys that can finish and quick-strike you.

“Our game plan this morning, and it started this morning, was taking pieces of that last game we played and making sure they’re in our game (Tuesday).”

Flames goalie Mike Smith, who received a rare night off on Saturday when David Rittich made 24 saves for his first NHL win against the Avalanche, is expected to be back in net on Tuesday.

“It’s always a test when you come off a long road trip,” said Smith, who has compiled an 11-7-1 record to go with a 2.64 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage in his first season with Calgary. “That first game at home always seems to be a challenge. I think it’ll be a good test for us.

“I think (the Maple Leafs are) one of the best up-and-coming teams in the league right now with the skill that they have and how much they’ve come on in the last couple years.”

The Maple Leafs (15-9-1) are looking to rebound from a 4-2 loss they took against the visiting Washington Capitals on Saturday.

“It’s going to be important for us to play well,” said Toronto coach Mike Babcock, whose team has compiled a 7-2-1 record in its last 10 games. “In saying all that, we’re not bad either. We’re going to create some problems for them as well. Ideally, we’ll both play good and the best team will win.”

After facing the Flames, the Maple Leafs will play at Edmonton on Thursday before visiting Vancouver on Saturday.

“These are three good teams we’re about to go up against,” said Toronto center Nazem Kadri, who has 11 goals and 10 assists in 25 games, leaving him second on the team in scoring behind Auston Matthews. “It’s an important road trip for us.”

To start things off on the right note, Kadri said the Leafs will have to find a way to shut down Calgary’s top line of center Sean Monahan, left winger Johnny Gaudreau and right winger Micheal Ferland.

“They’ve got tons of skill,” Kadri said. “I think they’re a really dangerous line and team off the rush. I know they like to skate the puck in with possession, so we’ve got to try to hold the blue line and make them dump in as many pucks as possible.”

Babcock agreed that his players will have to pay extra attention to Calgary’s top trio, which has combined to put up 45 points in the past 11 games.

“Obviously that line’s on fire and they do a real good job, the three of them together — two real heavy guys and then a guy (Gaudreau) who flat out is just fun to watch and actually fun to pre-scout,” Babcock said. “He’s done a lot of good things out there.”