Sitting just outside a crowded conference playoff race, the Calgary Flames know they need to keep picking up points to jump into the postseason. The Atlanta Thrashers need to start doing the same or they'll be falling right out of it.
The Flames look to win six straight for the first time in more than two years on Thursday night when they go for their first victory at Philips Arena.
After winning four in a row heading into the all-star weekend, Calgary (25-21-6) continued its surge coming out of the break, winning 3-2 in a shootout at Nashville on Tuesday night to move into a 10th-place tie with Los Angeles and Minnesota.
Beginning play on Wednesday, Calgary was one of nine teams in the West separated by just five points.
"If you win, you might move up a slot," captain Jarome Iginla said. "But there are so many teams that, if you lose, you're moving down two for sure because someone from that group is winning.
"Every game gets more important from here on out. It's going to be a heck of a race with so many teams that are within a few points of each other."
Before opening a four-game homestand Saturday against the Kings, the Flames will try to extend their road point streak to seven and win six straight overall for the first time since Oct. 21-Nov. 1, 2008. Calgary, though, is winless in six games in Atlanta, losing four in a row at Philips Arena since picking up its only road point in this series, a 3-all tie on March 11, 2001.
At this point, the Thrashers (24-20-9) would practically settle for one point after dropping eight of their last 10. In its first game back from the break, Atlanta lost 4-1 to the New York Islanders on Tuesday night, but remained one point ahead of Carolina for the East's eighth and final playoff spot.
"We lost so many battles in the offensive zone, and that allowed them to keep coming back up the ice," coach Craig Ramsay said. "Our work ethic, our commitment, is lacking."
So is production on the special teams. Atlanta, 1-for-15 on the power play over the last seven games, could use a lift from all-star defenceman Dustin Byfuglien on this unit. He is tied with Tobias Enstrom for a team-high 41 points and center Rich Peverley with six power-play goals, but has no points in his last 11 games.
Byfuglien and the Thrashers could struggle to get back on track against the Flames, who have killed 34 of 37 penalties over the last 10 games.
Miikka Kiprusoff, who has a 1.68 goals-against average while starting the last four games, is 3-1-0 with a 2.25 goals-against average against Atlanta. He turned away 24 of 25 shots in the last meeting between the teams — a 3-1 home win by the Flames on Dec. 9, 2009.
Thrashers goaltender Ondrej Pavelec has never faced Calgary. He could get his first look at Iginla, who has seven goals and seven assists during a seven-game point streak versus Atlanta.