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Flames finally oust Avalanche, now set their sights on powerhouse Sharks

CALGARY - Fresh off their first win of the season against the Colorado Avalanche, the Calgary Flames have renewed confidence heading down the stretch drive.

They'll need to put that to the test when they host the San Jose Sharks on Friday night (9 p.m. ET). San Jose is the class of the Western Conference, leading the way with a 43-16-10 record.

After dropping four straight 3-2 decisions to Colorado this season, the Flames (35-26-9) turned the tables on their Northwest Division foes Wednesday night and skated to a 3-2 win in Denver.

"It was against a team that we hadn't beat and it was a must win," said Calgary forward Craig Conroy. "It's just something to build on and now we've even got a better team coming tomorrow."

The Flames will now be looking to erase an ugly 9-1 loss they suffered to the Sharks in San Jose on Jan. 18.

"That was an embarrassing one, they beat us pretty handily," Conroy said. "It's tough to take sometimes, but they did it last year too (a 6-1 setback in San Jose on Nov. 13, 2008) and we were able to come back in our building and beat them, so we've got to do the same this year."

Since that devastating loss to the Sharks, Calgary general manager Darryl Sutter has given his team a big facelift with a series of trades to add forwards Jamal Mayers, Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Christopher Higgins and Ales Kotalik, defencemen Steve Staios and Ian White and goaltender Vesa Toskala.

"There's enough new faces here that they won't remember that and we'll be focused on what we need to do as a team and not so much worried about the past," said Mayers, adding that the Flames should have a bigger sense of urgency to win than the Sharks.

"If we play our game, use our speed and be tenacious and hungry, we've got a lot more to play for at this time of the year than they do, so we should be more desperate of a team."

Calgary forward Eric Nystrom has confidence that the Flames can climb back into the playoff picture.

"There's no reason why we can't win a lot of these games and secure ourselves a nice spot for the post-season and that's what we're trying to do," said Nystrom, who scored Wednesday against Colorado.

"We've just got to be ready to play and that's what it comes down to. When we're not ready, we don't win games. We've got to make sure that when that puck drops we're ready to go all out for 60 minutes."

While the Flames have compiled a respectable 18-10-6 record on the road, they're a less-than-spectacular 17-16-3 at the Pengrowth Saddledome after a 2-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings last Monday night.

"It would be nice to get a victory for the fans," said forward David Moss. "Obviously at home we haven't been great this year, but we need a win for ourselves and just to keep our playoff hopes alive."

For Calgary to have success against San Jose, Moss said the Flames have to take advantage of the fact that the Sharks will be playing their second game in as many nights.

"We've got to come out and play hard and hopefully wear their defence down by getting pucks in and staying on them and making life tough for them," said Moss.

To Calgary coach Brent Sutter, the task is simple: keep winning games.

"Now it becomes the biggest game of the year for us and that's how we have to approach it," Sutter said. "There's no other way to put it. We have to win hockey games and that's our task. That's the mission we're on."


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