Road warriors: Calgary Flames leave home on crucial four-game sojourn

Olli Jokinen and Jarome Iginla are two Flames that hope to continue the team's road special teams success. (Mark Mauno/Flickr).

The Calgary Flames (8-9-1) begin a four-game road trip tonight and hope to get above .500 by the time they return to Calgary.

The trip begins tonight at Nationwide Arena in Columbus against the Blue Jackets. The Jackets have had arguably the worst season of anyone in the NHL, boasting a league-worst 4-13-2 record. But while the Flames won three of four from Columbus last season, their overall record against the Blue Jackets is roughly even (20-17-3, all-time) and the Jackets hold the edge at Nationwide (6-13-1, overall). One player that hopes to sting the Blue Jackets is Flames captain Jarome Iginla. Eager to get his scoring totals up to his usual levels – he sits with 9 points in 18 games so far – Iginla fared well against Columbus last season, earning 7 points in 4 games. Rene Bourque (6 points) and Olli Jokinen (5 points) also tore up the Jackets at a more than point-per-game pace.

On Wednesday night, the Flames travel to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit for their second meeting with the Red Wings – and their second of two visits to Detroit this season. Calgary beat Detroit 4-1 back on November 3 in one of their best efforts of the season, anchored by three points from Jarome Iginla. While the 11-7-1 Wings will undoubtedly be looking for a bit of revenge over a team that came into Hockeytown and took two points, the Flames will be seeking to repeat an in-game recipe that worked to perfection in their last visit.

On Friday, the Flames head to the Scottrade Center for their second road meeting of the season (and third meeting overall) with the St. Louis Blues. The Blues beat Calgary in St. Louis by a 5-2 score back on October 10 in a game where Henrik Karlsson made 30 saves but the Flames were out-shot 35-17 and largely out-played by the Blues. The Flames got a bit of revenge with a 3-1 win at home against the Blues on October 28, with Roman Horak leading the way with a goal and an assist (as well as some heroic goaltending from Miikka Kiprusoff). The Flames will be looking for a more consistent 60-minute effort against the Blues, as the two meetings with St. Louis have shown the differing results the team can get when they don’t give it their all.

Finally, the trip finishes on Sunday with a visit to the Xcel Energy Center and the Minnesota Wild. The Flames will be looking to avenge a 3-0 home loss against the Wild back on November 3. In that match-up, Calgary fired a season-high 41 shots on Nicklas Backstrom, but the Wild netminder stood strong and the Flames came away empty-handed despite playing rather well (for a team that got shut-out). Beating Backstrom may be key to success against the Wild; in five meetings with the Flames last year, Backstrom went 4-0-1 with a 0.98 goals against average while no Flame player scored more than a single goal against Minnesota.

Overall, while the Flames are hoping to improve on their 4-4-0 road record this season, they are also hoping some trends continue. In particular? Their wildly improved special teams play away from the Scotiabank Saddledome. The Flames boast the third-best road power-play (27.3%) and the second-best road penalty-kill (92.9%). Given that their so-so home record can be directly linked, in some cases, to their poor special teams play (particularly their league-worst 4.8% home power-play), the Flames are hoping their road numbers continue to be a source of pride.