DALLAS — One more game before the brief Christmas break.
The Calgary Flames don’t want to serve up a turkey too early.
As important as points are for the team struggling to stay out of last place in the Western Conference, it’s even more critical to their mental health they put forward a strong performance against the Dallas Stars Thursday night at the American Airlines Center.
“We have to use it as a game to go into the break feeling good about ourselves,” said defenceman Mark Giordano, whose team has lost three straight games to drop to 14-18-3 on the season.
“We have to use it as a game that, in our minds, we have to say, ‘We’re going to win this last one,’ and go from there. And try to come back from the break and get on a big roll.”
They’ve been trying to climb the standings for weeks, but in spite of their efforts, the direction they’ve travelled lately has been downhill.
Meanwhile, the Stars have been shining brightly — climbing to the top of the Western Conference standings.
The Texans are allowing a 10th best 2.65 goals against per game while pumping in a respectable 2.82 goals for — good for 13th in the NHL.
In addition to goals from usual suspects Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn and Brad Richards Tuesday night in a 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens, the Stars got contributions from grinder Adam Burish and defenceman Karlis Skrastins.
“We’ve had a lot of that, scoring by committee,” Stars winger Steve Ott, who notched a pair of assists, told reporters afterward.
“Shorthanded, powerplay, even-strength, we’re finding a way.”
The Flames are finding ways to lose, but they’re determined to avoid looking at the big picture and do whatever they can to remain positive they can earn points.
They took the day off in Dallas Wednesday after the back-to-back road losses.
“The whole conference is tight,” said winger Curtis Glencross after the loss in Columbus during which he hit a post and was robbed of a great scoring chance on a two-on-one rush when goalie Mathieu Garon slid across the crease just in time to prevent him from converting a pass from David Moss.
“We’re going to have to go into Dallas with our heads up, take the positives (from Tuesday in Columbus), get the two points there.
“Then, after that, it’s time to take a couple days off, a couple days’ rest with families, then it’s crunch time — back to work for us.
“Otherwise, we’re going to be on the outside looking in again. None of us want to be in that situation.”
With every loss, the idea of the Flames missing the playoffs for a second straight season becomes more likely.
They’re looking for any reason to feel good about themselves over the holidays.
“It’s huge for us. We need the confidence going into Christmas,” Glencross said. “Two points going into the break ... we’ve got to get something on this road trip.”
Dallas is their last chance.
Based on the standings, it’s certainly not their best.
“We have one game in the next I don’t know how many days — five, six days — we have to bring all of our energy,” Giordano said.
“It’s going to come. We’re going to break out of this little scoring slump we’re in. We are doing a lot of good things.”