It's do-or-die for Flames now

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:07 AM ET

New day. Same message.

It has to be hard on the Calgary Flames and their coaches.

Awake in any city for a game and the motto is the same.

It's a must-win.

It's a Game 7.

Sure, it's as repetitive as those annoying same-old Telus and Panago Pizza commercials during Flames broadcasts on TV, but ...

"I don't think it's hard because it's reality," said head coach Brent Sutter. "We are where we are, and every game is such a big game for us."

The latest game of monumental proportions is Thursday night's clash at the New York Islanders to start a three-game Eastern Conference road trip.

After facing the no-hope-for-the-playoffs Islanders, it will be Saturday afternoon's meeting with the Bruins in Boston.

If things go well, the next big game will be a showdown with Alexander Ovechkin and the NHL-leading Washington Capitals.

If the Flames struggle to start their trip, that clash in the U.S. capital could be do-or-die -- although their playoff hopes might be dead in that situation, regardless.

"We're going out and playing three teams we haven't played yet, and just have to prepare for the first game, and when that's over, prepare for the second one," said Sutter, who has far too many things to worry about than facing a franchise he won a couple of Stanley Cups with. "It doesn't matter where you play right now and who you're playing against. You've got to win hockey games.

"We need efforts from everybody and everybody committed to the cause. If everyone is, we'll be fine."

Fine may be soft-selling the situation. The Flames need help, no matter how you slice it. They're still outside the Western Conference's top eight, so beating the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 Tuesday night and racking up a couple of wins on this trip -- they probably need to return with five points to call it a success -- hardly moves them out of the woods.

They can take some solace in the fact they have posted an impressive 10-3-2 record against Eastern foes.

But it doesn't matter what happened in the past. The Flames need at least two wins, if not three, to have a hope of reeling in Detroit or Colorado -- or anybody -- and making the playoffs.

"Fact is, we have to win pretty much every game the rest of the season, but we have to win one at a time," said goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, who could see a steady dose of action this trip. "We played a pretty strong game (against Anaheim) and that's what we need against the Islanders.

"We have to get ready for the next game and take those points. That's all we can do."

If you're expecting to hear a different message from anybody involved with the Flames, it won't happen.

They all know the situation they put themselves into, and what it will take over their final nine regular-season games.

"This is huge," said left winger Rene Bourque. "We've been good on the road all year, too. We've got to keep playing that way, get that early lead and getting after those teams."

Added defenceman Robyn Regehr: "Brent hit the nail on the head after our pre-game skate (Tuesday) when he said all our games are Game 7.

"That's an accurate way to describe it."

Winning each one of those deciding games gives the Flames a chance to live another day.

It's up to them.

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos