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With so many key players out injured, Flames coach Mike Keenan hopes Matthew Lombardi and his teammates can step up. ((Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press))

Fresh off a pair of road wins over two of their division rivals, the Flames return to Calgary on Tuesday to host the Columbus Blue Jackets in the opener of a three-game homestand.

With 76 points, Calgary sits comfortably in first place in the NHL Northwest Division with an eight-point cushion over the Vancouver Canucks, who visit the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.

Calgary also enjoys what appears to be an insurmountable lead on the Minnesota Wild (64 points) and their provincial rivals, the Edmonton Oilers (63).

But all is not sweetness and light in the Flames camp.

Mark Giordano was hurt last Thursday in a 3-2 overtime win over the Wild and the defenceman could miss the rest of the season after shoulder surgery Monday.

"He'll be out for a long period of time," coach Mike Keenan told the Calgary Sun. "He damaged his shoulder in that contact with (Cal) Clutterbuck in Minnesota."

Giordano's injury is the least of Calgary's problems, as the club is without Daymond Langkow (hand), Andre Roy (head injury), Rene Bourque (ankle), Wayne Primeau (foot) and Rhett Warrener (shoulder).

With so many key players missing, other Flames have to step up. Matthew Lombardi did just that when he scored the game-tying goal with 65 seconds left in regulation against the Oilers on Saturday.

Calgary went on to win 3-2 in a shootout, with Todd Bertuzzi scoring the lone goal.

The Flames will be looking for more of the same from the likes of Lombardi, Dustin Boyd and David Moss, as well as Jamie Lundmark and Kyle Greentree, who were recently called up from the minors.

"Every time there's a hardship for one man, it's an opportunity for another. The people given an opportunity have to take advantage," Keenan told the Sun. "It tests the depth of our organization and tests the development of some players that get more responsibility."

Oilers vs. Lightning

Edmonton will try to narrow the gap on the Flames with a win on home ice Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Oilers sit ninth in the Western Conference, one point out of a playoff spot, and will be looking to end their three-game losing streak.

Edmonton appeared to be on the verge of earning a big win over Calgary on Saturday, but Lombardi's late goal forced overtime.

"Over the course of 82 games you're going to lose a couple in the last minute or two," said Oilers forward Shawn Horcoff. "We'll take the point and move on at this point in the season. We don't have any time to sit and dwell on negatives."

Edmonton has not lost four in a row since a season-high five-game slide in October.