Red-hot Flames host road-weary Islanders

CALGARY, Alberta -- The confidence level could not be any higher for the hockey team from Cow Town.

The Calgary Flames, looking like a team bound for the playoffs come April, go for their seventh straight victory while trying to snap a five-game slide against the Islanders on Sunday afternoon when they host New York.

"A lot of belief, a lot of confidence and swagger in this group right now," center Mikael Backlund said.

"We're playing some pretty good hockey. We get down a goal and we believe we can still come back. We put ourselves down every game it seems and we should stop doing that."

Backlund played the hero Friday night when he kept the puck on a two-on-one and scored the winner as Calgary (35-26-4) downed the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in overtime. He is tied with Sean Monahan for the team lead with 20 goals.

The surge has Calgary sitting in the first of two wild card spots in the Western Conference with 17 games remaining in the regular season with a seven-point lead on the ninth-place St. Louis Blues, who are third but have two games in hand.

"Our team knows now what it needs to do on a night in, night out basis to win," Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan said.

"We can get down a goal and (the team) believes if they play the right way they can beat anybody on any given night.

"There is good character in that room and they really want to win. The belief grows with every save, every goal and every win."

The Flames fell behind 1-0 early in the first period Friday but scored twice before the period was over to take the lead. They

regrouped after Tomas Tatar forced overtime with just two seconds remaining in the third period.

The Islanders, on the other hand, were 1:14 away from getting a win in Chicago on Friday but fell 2-1 in a shootout to the Blackhawks, who tied the game on Artemi Panarin's late goal.

New York (30-22-11) arrives in Calgary with a 3-1-1 record on a nine-game road trip. They occupy the second wild card spot in the

Eastern Conference.

The Islanders have key defenseman Travis Hamonic back in the lineup for the stretch drive. Hamonic missed 24 games when he suffered a lower body injury Jan. 7 on a knee-on-knee hit with Lawson Crouse of Arizona and returned against Chicago.

Islanders interim coach Doug Weight, who took over in mid-January when Jack Capuano was fired, was thrilled to have Hamonic at hisdisposal.

"His attitude, his compete, he likes to get up the ice and he's a hard guy to play against," Weight told Newsday. "It's always a great thing to have in your lineup."

Given that Weight described Thomas Greiss's 30-save effort against Chicago as "great" goaltending, it's expected he will draw his third straight start Sunday, while Brian Elliott will tend goal for the Flames. Elliott is 9-1-1 in his past 11 starts.
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