Discussing the Calgary Flames’ impressive return to relevance

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As the Christmas holiday approached, it seemed like the Calgary Flames were among the few NHL teams who could be written off for the 2011 playoffs. The team was just a mess, resulting in the still-justified resignation of general manager Darryl Sutter.

Perhaps it was the increased sunny disposition that comes with removing a brooding presence or the team’s “two out of three wins” approach, but the Flames now find themselves in a solid spot amongst the Western Conference playoff pack.

As Dave Lozo writes, the Flames could be in a five-way tie for the fourth spot in the West if they beat the struggling Dallas Stars in a game that is about to begin. Lozo took the pulse of the Calgary lineup, as Jay Bouwmeester and Jarome Iginla state that consistency has been the key while Curtis Glencross thinks it’s in many ways a matter of getting bounces they weren’t getting before.

Yet later on Lozo spotlights what is likely the true catalyst for Calgary’s climb: the offensive breakthroughs of Iginla, Glencross and … (wait for it) Olli Jokinen.

The Flames have used a lethal offense during this 24-game stretch to rise into playoff contention. They’ve scored 82 goals during the hot streak, good for an average of 3.4 per game. Iginla has been one of the leaders with 11 goals and 13 assists during that span.

But as Iginla mentioned, the contributions have been coming from everywhere.

Olli Jokinen has 5 goals and 19 assists since Dec. 23 after posting a mere 7 goals and 10 assists in his first 32 games.

Forward Curtis Glencross, who had never scored more than 15 goals in a season, has 19 in 56 games. In his past 24 games, he has 12 goals and 6 assists and is in the midst of a five-game goal-scoring streak.

Much like Ilya Kovalchuk’s late season resurgence with the New Jersey Devils, Jokinen might be worthy of a partial apology. His game can be very one-dimensional and soft at times, but Jokinen is putting together the kind of offensive stretch that shows why teams were so eager to acquire him during his Florida Panthers days.

Of course, almost every contender in the West managed to produce a surge or two so far this season, so it really will be about consistency for Calgary. Can the team keep filling the net and earning standings points, or will they regress back to cellar dweller status? It’ll be interesting to watch, but I must admit, it’s stunning that they’ve even gotten this far.

Dropping like flies: Johnson, Killorn hurt in Bolts’ exhibition

Montreal Canadiens v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game One
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You probably know the drill: injury updates are murky in the NHL basically from the moment a puck drops.

We’ll learn more once the 2015-16 season begins, but at the moment, Saturday might have served as a costly night for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Both Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn went down with injuries stemming from a 3-2 pre-season win against the Florida Panthers.

“Guys were dropping like flies,” Steven Stamkos told the Tamba Bay Times.

These could be minor situations – just about any ailment will sideline a key asset this time of year – yet one cannot help but wonder if the Lightning might limp into this campaign.

Nikita Kucherov is dealing with his own issues, so that means at least minor issues for one half of the Bolts’ top six forwards.

It’s believed that more will be known about these banged-up Bolts sometime on Sunday.

Raffi Torres gets match penalty for being Raffi Torres

Raffi Torres

With knee issues still limiting him, Raffi Torres isn’t as mobile as he once was. Apparently he still moves well enough to leave the usual path of destruction.

It’s the pre-season, so it’s unclear if we’ll get a good look at the check, but Torres received a match penalty for his hit on Anaheim Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg.

Most accounts were pretty critical of the San Jose Sharks’ chief troublemaker:

It’s too early to tell if Silfverberg is injured. If he is, that’s a significant loss for the Ducks, as he really showed signs of fulfilling his promise (especially during the 2015 playoffs).

As far as Torres goes, he’s hoping to play in the Sharks’ season-opener. Wherever he ends up, he’ll certainly make plenty of enemies on the ice.

Whether it was because of that hit or just the general distaste shared by those sides, it sounds like tonight’s Sharks – Ducks exhibition is getting ugly, in general:

This post will be updated if video of the hit becomes available, and also if we get a better idea of Silfverberg’s condition.

Update: Bullet dodged?