Calgary Flames vs. Colorado Avalanche Pick & Prediction MARCH 12th 2024

With a bunch of new faces and a returnee, the Colorado Avalanche are kicking off a four-game road trip at a perfect time against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday.

Not only are the Avalanche trying to integrate a handful of new players acquired before last Friday’s trade deadline — forwards Brandon Duhaime, Yakov Trenin and Casey Mittelstadt, as well as defenseman Sean Walker — but forward Valeri Nichushkin returned to the club in Friday’s 2-1 overtime win over the Minnesota Wild. Nichushkin missed 22 games while in the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program.

The victory over Minnesota extended their winning streak to three games, but the Avalanche will admit it wasn’t the prettiest effort.

“Guys are trying to be nice and make extra passes to each other, I think, and that’s just guys being good teammates and trying to be nice to each other,” Nathan MacKinnon said. “But we got simpler as the game went on, and we really started to get our forecheck going and had a ton of chances in the third. I thought we played a great third.”

Nichushkin scored the overtime winner.

“It can help a guy mentally when he’s feeling supported by the community and by our fans,” coach Jared Bednar said. “I think it’s important, and to be able to come out after not playing for as long as it’s been for him and then go out and get the OT winner … no better start.”

Speaking of great, on top of reaching the 40-goal mark for the third time in his career, MacKinnon was named the league’s first star of the week by collecting three goals and 10 points in three games. He’s also riding a 12-game point streak in which he has netted eight goals and 26 points.

The Flames are hoping a return home can turn their waning fortunes after consecutive blowout losses on the road following the trade deadline. The Flames, who have dropped three of four games, were thumped 5-1 by the Florida Panthers on Saturday before a 7-2 shellacking at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.

Losing is bad enough, but the Flames, to a man, admitted their performances — especially against the Hurricanes — were nowhere near up to snuff.

“We just got outplayed, out-competed, out-everything. Just an awful effort all around,” forward Blake Coleman said.

“It’s not one you want to replicate again, that’s for sure,” coach Ryan Huska added. “It’s one of those games where you’re not really going to take a lot from in, really, any aspect of it.”

Calgary going through some struggles is no surprise when you consider the Flames finished the trade deadline period by dealing away minutes-eating defenseman Noah Hanifin to the Vegas Golden Knights, a week after trading away Chris Tanev to the Dallas Stars. Take any team’s second pairing, especially one that good, and the impact will be felt.

Even so, Calgary is eight points behind the Golden Knights for the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot, so all is not lost. But the test will be for the Flames to respond after those losses and make a run. They vow to give their best the rest of the way.

“I’ve gotten my (butt) kicked plenty of times in this league. It’s how you respond,” Coleman said. “Our leadership group will make sure that that showing never happens again.”

–Field Level Media

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