SUN Hockey Pool

Flames eye banner end against Avs

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:33 AM ET

The sweaters to be doled out for Fan Appreciation Night will be special.

Certainly it'll be a cherished keepsake for the 26 pulled from the Calgary faithful jamming the Saddledome who'll receive jerseys off the Flames' backs tonight.

The throng -- that will certainly be 19,289 strong, as has been the case all season -- wants another type of cloth.

A banner.

They're not alone.

By earning a point when they face the Colorado Avalanche tonight at the 'Dome, not even a win but a point from an overtime or shootout loss, the Flames would claim the Northwest Division crown.

It would be the first for the franchise since Calgary claimed what was the Pacific Division in 1994-95.

A first for defenceman Rhett Warrener, too.

"I've never been on a team that's won a division, so I think it'd be a nice opportunity," Warrener said after yesterday's optional practice. "I also know that the way we've played on the road this year it would bode well to have home ice advantage.

"I think it's an accomplishment. It's something this team believed at the start of the year we should accomplish and if we don't do it would be a letdown."

The Northwest crown will be the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoff chase and ensures home-ice advantage in the opening round.

A bit of noteriety, too, especially when you think of how far the Flames have come in the last two seasons.

"It'd be awesome," said forward Shean Donovan. "You think of having a chance to win a banner and having it up in the rink forever is pretty cool. Guys know how much this game means."

The Flames head into tonight's clash on a 6-0-2 run that pulled them away from the Avs. They started the second game of that streak one point back of Colorado but proceeded to beat the Avalanche 3-2, which sent them away from the pack.

Now, they're within a point of attaining one of their objectives, which may have seen pie in the sky to some considering the Flames are in a group that includes a Vancouver squad with all the key components to the division-winning side of 2004 and perennial strong squad from Colorado.

"It would mean we've achieved one of our goals for the regular season, the biggest goal," defenceman Andrew Ference said. "We've been setting our sights pretty high and it's a big achievement if we can get it.

"We've set another goal and it's obviously bigger than that, but it would be rewarding to know what it took and with the style we play in a really tough division."

And don't think the chance to claim the title in a game against Colorado -- which claimed eight straight titles starting in 1995-96 -- is lost on the Flames.

"They're the ones who've owned it," Donovan exclaimed. "They're the ones who won it all those years in a row. If you're gonna win it, you've got to do it against the guys who own it."


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