NASHVILLE – It's one thing to ask Geoff Ward how he chose his start-up Netminder all season.
It is very different for him to think about why one of them is on a remarkable escape, where he dominated the street and is still fighting at home.
"Are you asking me to get into the head of a goalkeeper?" said the Calgary Flames interim coach and burst out laughing at the impossibility of the task. "Are you really asking me this question? I have absolutely nothing. I don't know if I want to peak in this one. That is a difficult question. "
No team in the NHL has been hotter than the Flames in the past two months and has gone 15: 4: 1 since November 23
It held them in a playoff race from which they would otherwise have faded.
The man who is mainly responsible for this run is David Rittich, who is 12-3-1 with a GAA of 2.39 and 0.924 SV% in his last 16 street starts.
Not surprisingly, he will get his third consecutive start on a five-game road trip against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday.
"He's a guy who likes to spend time on his team – it helps him prepare," said Ward, trying to solve the parakeet road puzzle. "When we're on the road, he's obviously a lot more among the boys, and maybe that has something to do with it.
"It is good for us to see him return to his old form. He will start here tonight and hopefully we will see the same game we saw from him in Boston."
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Rittich was outstanding during the Flames' 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday, scoring 26 saves in the league's most difficult building this season.
Nashville is generally not easier to play, although the Flames have won eight of their last nine over the Tootsies Orchid Lounge.
"It's strange – our team is in this boat right now," said Mark Giordano about Rittich's recent success on the street and his dome fights.
“When you return to the start of the season, I think it was a flip-flop – I think we were doing well at home and not doing so well. You will go through this during a long season. If we say that, of course we want to continue to be successful on the street, but we know that with the upcoming home games we have to change that and change it quickly. "
The Flames end their road trip this weekend with two consecutive games against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers before ending the season with 11 of their last 15 home games, in which they have won only one of their last seven games.
"You're not going to play 60 incredible games – it's part of hockey," Rittich shrugged when asked about his limp game at home recently.
"You have to go through it, you have to fight. You have to work for the team."
After an excellent start to the season, when he confirmed that he was able to be an everyday NHL starter, Rittich showed signs of the fight in the second half that he has now experienced in all three of his NHL campaigns ,
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He says he continues to use his experience to better deal with the inevitable setbacks that athletes face.
"You have to look year after year – in my first year I played a few games and learned from them," said the 27-year-old Czech, whose 45 games this season correspond to the career high he had set last year.
“Last year I played more and learned from it. I think I have more experience with this stuff. You don't want it to go this way – you want to keep the line.
"But sometimes it is difficult. They go through a lot of things during the year. You hurt a few people and play with different defenders. Different things that you will feel. I feel very comfortable with our team and she plays really well. "
A game after Derek Forbort and Erik Gustafsson have taken over the trading hours, the club expects a big boost as Giordano returns after a thigh injury that missed the captain ten games.
He was considered a playful decision in Boston, but decided in the afternoon with team doctors and coaches to wait another two days to be sure. He's again a game time decision on Thursday, but he seems optimistic that he will be in the lineup.