SUN Hockey Pool

Third's a charm

RANDY SPORTAK, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 7:36 AM ET

Most years of Jarome Iginla's career, this time of year has meant playing out the string.

Instead of gearing up for the post-season, the Calgary Flames captain spent the bulk of his springs contemplating a trip to the World Championships or hoping for injuries to heal.

Which is why Iginla is relishing where he and the Flames sit this morning.

Sure, a great hue and cry can be heard throughout the Stampede City with the Flames perch atop the Northwest Division precarious on the heels of a disappointing seven-game road trip.

However, Iginla is taking great delight the memories of most seasons past aren't being relived.

"This is why you play. You want to be in big games. Every game is so big for the division, and this time of year we'll be playing a lot of teams we're fighting with, and it's great," Iginla said yesterday after an off-ice work out. "You'd like to be further above but other teams would like to be higher, too. We are where we are and if we take care of ourselves, we don't have to watch other teams.

"That's a good position to be in."

We'll see if the warm and fuzzy feelings are the same a week from now.

Calgary's sub-par road swing -- two wins, four losses and an overtime defeat -- hasn't been as costly as it could have been.

Remember, the Flames were virtually in the same position before their home-and-home series with Colorado March 12 and 13.

However, the margin for error becomes razor-thin with games tomorrow against Los Angeles, Friday versus Colorado and Saturday in Edmonton.

Three losses and the Flames could very well find themselves outside the playoff picture.

Three wins and life is good again for the Saddledome faithful.

As Andrew Ference points out, it's been the same story since the New NHL was unveiled in October.

"We've been fighting for playoffs all year. The mood and emotion in this room has been from day one to scrap to make it and scrap to win the division. It's not some revolutionary change now there are 11 games left," Ference said. "We still have the same focus, same goals and same expectations as we did at the start of the year. That's not changing.

"Why panic? You panic, then you lose. That's what teams that don't have experience and don't have leadership do.

"Guys have been in this situation before and it's a matter of doing it."

That's not to say the standings crunch is being ignored.

Despite being in top spot, the Flames are admittedly scoreboard and highlight watching.

More than a few returned Sunday night from Dallas and flipped on the tube to see what transpired in the Edmonton-Colorado tilt.

"When the division is as tight as it is, yeah you do," said Daymond Langkow. "Right now, you're always checking to see what other teams are doing, especially big games.

"If it wasn't as tight as it is, I probably wouldn't keep as close an eye on it but it's as tight as I've ever been a part of."

And a whole lot more fun than counting down the days before hitting the golf course.


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