SUN Hockey Pool

Flames can have firm grip on division with wins

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:57 AM ET

It isn't a chance to deliver a knockout.

Yet the Calgary Flames wouldn't mind delivering a blow worth a standing eight-count.

A home-and-home series with the Colorado Avalanche won't give the Flames an opportunity to send a key rival to the golf course.

Nor even send them spiralling out of the playoff chase.

It could, however, mean an opportunity to solidify their hold on top spot in the ultra-competitive Northwest Division.

"It has a lot of implications in the division," said Calgary captain Jarome Iginla. "We can be five up on Colorado with three games in hand or we can be three down, so it could be a big difference."

Heading into today's clash at the Pepsi Center (1 p.m., Sportsnet, FAN 960) the Flames sit one point ahead of Colorado in the division chase and have played three fewer games.

Though what transpires during the 33-hour span that follows today's puck drop could be erased over the following five weeks, the importance can't be overstated.

"It's a huge home-and-home for us point-wise, division-wise," said Jordan Leopold. "We're both tight in the standings and it's gonna be a difference here."

Especially when you consider what's looming on the horizon for the Stampede City crew.

After this set, the Flames will embark on a seven-game road trip.

That means a four-point outburst may be needed to provide a buffer, seeing as the Flames go from being one of the NHL's best squads on home ice to the middle of the pack when it comes to road clashes.

And that's just the beginning of the daunting future.

Over the next 28 days, the Flames have 16 games on the agenda, four per week for a full lunar month.

"We can't look at it as a big thing. It's about the game (today)," Iginla said. "You always hear about that but it's true. We can't look at who we play after Colorado, at home or on the road.

"These games come pretty quick so it's going to be easy to stay in the moment. It's game day, rest day, get prepared again for game day. We look at trying to win the game we're playing.

"Yeah, it's a lot of games but we're pretty well rested. Plus, we use all four lines a lot more than other teams do and we're a good skating club, so we can make the most of it. It's definitely a good challenge but other teams are going through the same thing. If they don't have 16, they probably have 14 or 15. It's the way it is.

"It'll be a fun month."

General manager/head coach Darryl Sutter isn't overly concerned about his charges handling the workload.

"It's about the rhythm of your team," Sutter said. "We have a strong enough group in terms of leadership and the way they handle themselves. I think we're the only team in the league that hasn't lost more than two in a row in regulation -- actually I know we're the only team -- and that's because the guys know how to park and reload and they don't let anything distract them.

"If you have a night when you don't win, it doesn't carry over the next day with them and that's why they're such a good club."


Videos

Photos