CALGARY – With the regular season ticking away, the Calgary Flames know they have no margin for error.
The Flames are tied with Dallas for ninth in the Western Conference, three points back of Chicago for the final playoff spot.
The problem is, the Blackhawks have a game in hand while the Stars have played two fewer games than Calgary. With just five games left on their schedule, the Flames know time is running out.
“We know what we need to do, we need to win games,” Flames defenceman Mark Giordano said Tuesday. “Obviously, you hope for a bit of help, but the bottom line is that Wednesday is an important game and if we win that, we give ourselves a chance and stay alive.”
Calgary (38-28-11) faces a key game when it hosts Anaheim (43-28-5) at home on Wednesday. The Ducks sit seventh in the West, four points up on Calgary.
Coach Brent Sutter just wants his players to compete as hard as possible and see where they sit when the schedule runs out.
“We know we need to get help at some point along the way, but we still have to take care of our own business and focus in on what we have to do,” Sutter said. “We’ve just got to keep forging ahead here and make sure we take care of what we have to do.”
With fewer games remaining on their schedule than the teams they’re battling against, all the Flames can do on off nights is watch the action unfold and hope for the best.
“It’s only natural to look at the standings, to see what you need and what other teams are doing,” forward Matt Stajan said. “We care. We want to get to the playoffs. Going into every game, we have the same mindset. We want to win. For whatever reason we came out flat a couple games and it cost us some points.”
Prior to Calgary’s come-from-behind 5-4 shootout win in Edmonton over the Oilers on Saturday, the Flames had gone 1-4-2 in their previous seven contests to fall out of a playoff position.
“Inside of our room and as far as everybody downstairs and upstairs, we kept believing and stayed together and stuck with it,” Sutter said. “We put ourselves in a situation to battle for this.
“I tell you what, (the media) never gave us a chance in December for it to happen, but we kept believing and we’re still in that situation to battle for it and we’ll see what happens.”
Of Calgary’s five remaining games, Wednesday’s contest against the surging Ducks is the only one against a team that hasn’t already clinched (Vancouver Canucks) or is out of the playoff picture altogether (St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton).
The Ducks have beaten the Flames all three times this season, twice in overtime and once in a shootout.
“We’ve played them strong all three times that we’ve played them,” Flames forward Tim Jackman added. “We’re disappointed we didn’t win, but hopefully (on Wednesday) we figure out a way to play a full 60 minutes.
“We don’t want them to get any extra points, that’s for sure, and we want to win in regulation.”
To do that, the Flames will have to shut down the likes of Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan. Heading into Tuesday night’s action, Perry led the league in goal scoring with 44, while Selanne upped his point totals to 75 points in 67 games after notching a hat trick and two assists during a 5-4 win over Colorado on Monday.
“Perry and Selanne have obviously been playing great lately, so hopefully we can shut them down,” said Calgary forward Rene Bourque. “I think we match up well against them. It just seems that those two guys and Getzlaf seem to hurt us every time so hopefully we can keep a close eye on them and they don’t light us up for a lot of points.”
After playing the Flames, the Ducks travel to San Jose to face the Sharks on April 2 before returning home to host the Stars the next night and the Sharks on April 6. They then finish up the season with a home-and-home series against the cross-town L.A. Kings.
“We know Anaheim plays L.A. twice towards the end,” Flames forward Alex Tanguay said. “If the same team wins the two games, it gives us a chance. Right now the focus is on trying to win games and the next one is really important.
“If we beat Anaheim we get closer to them and we give ourselves a shot at being in the playoffs and that’s all we can hope for right now.”
Note to readers: Note to readers: this is a corrected story. A previous version had the Blackhawks with two games in hand instead of one.