Hiding his feelings isn’t one of Mikael Backlund’s strong suits.
One of the most approachable and honest young NHLers, the 22-year-old Calgary Flames centre brings up one of his sore spots Friday night after the team’s 3-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.
“I’ve got to really improve on my plus-minus. It’s awful. It’s terrible,” Backlund said outside the Flames locker-room.
“It’s something I’m not proud of at all.”
Despite the minus-13 rating, however, there are plenty of signs the Swede is developing into a responsible two-way centre.
He took a huge step in that regard Friday while matched up against one of the league’s best at the position in Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews.
Although he struggled in the faceoff circle, winning five of his 14 draws (36%) — remember, Toews leads the NHL in win percentage — Backlund made strong plays in his own zone and worked the cycle in the opposing end along with linemates Lance Bouma and Blake Comeau.
“It’s fun to get those challenges — you’ve got to really step up your game against guys like that. It’s fun,” Backlund said. “I felt good. Our line had some cycles here and there, but overall, it was a pretty tight game against that line.”
Not so Ducky in Anaheim
The bad news: The Flames have lost 13 straight to the Ducks in Anaheim.
The good news: Not many members of the current Flames club have been around long enough to realize it.
“All you do is you keep going,” said captain Jarome Iginla, the only Flames player still around who actually suited up in their last win at The Pond back on Jan. 19, 2004.
“We go in with the mindset that we’re due. We’re due to win in there.”
In that last victory in SoCal, Miikka Kiprusoff was out with a knee injury.
“As far as guys thinking, we haven’t won in there in forever,” Iginla said. “Besides a few of us … there’s guys that have only played three, two games in there.”
The Flames won’t take them lightly either way. The Ducks were one of the league’s hottest teams in January, winning nine of their 12 games.
“They’ve been winning some games lately — they’re back closer to a playoff spot. They’re gonna be playing hard,” said Alex Tanguay, whose team heads to San Jose and Phoenix after Monday’s game in Anaheim before returning home.
“We’ve got Phoenix four more times, we’ve got Dallas four more times …” Tanguay added. “Those are some of the teams we’re gonna be battling with. It’s fun that we have the opportunity to play them so often.”
Kipper hitting milestones
Getting the win Friday for Kiprusoff was a bonus on the night the Flames goaltender became the franchise’s leader in games played between the pipes.
“It was nice,” Iginla said. “He’s played so well. As good as he’s played since he’s been here — his Vezina years.
“He’s just so consistent.
“Goals that beat him, just like (Friday night), he doesn’t have a lot of chance on. Nobody’s gonna get those one-timers back door.
“It was nice to be able, as a team, to go into a third period in a tight game and seal it. We were able to against a very good club.”
Much of the credit goes to Kiprusoff, who was great in the first period while the rest of his teammates struggled to find their legs.
With victory No. 299 under his belt, the fantastic Finn looks to become the 27th NHL goalie to crack 300.
On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane