SUN Hockey Pool

Pedal to the medal

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:56 AM ET

LOS ANGELES -- The Northwest Division banner can be ordered.

They have no place to go in the standings, up or down.

All the Calgary Flames can do now is wait for the post-season party to begin and find out who will be the opposition.

Sure sounds like a perfect time for a trip to SoCal.

Doesn't the idea of sitting back on the beach sipping a margarita sound good? Or a delve into the Los Angeles nightlife? Or some sightseeing along the California coast?

Try again.

The two games left on the schedule, tonight in Los Angeles and Monday in Anaheim, may have no meaning to the standings but that doesn't diminish their importance, defenceman Rhett Warrener insists.

"There's still a Jennings Trophy we could win and that's something we want to key on," Warrener said of the prize awarded to the goalie(s) whose team surrender the fewest goals.

"With the type of team we are, we should always take pride in something like that.

"We want to play for that."

Going into the final games of the regular season, Calgary and Miikka Kiprusoff have a healthy lead on the pack for the Jennings. Barring a game like last month's 9-4 debacle in Nashville, it's pretty safe to bet that honour will be bestowed on them.

The other goal is to get the road record above the .500 mark. Only the seven non-playoff teams in the West have worse road marks than Calgary's 16-17-6.

Other than that, there isn't much on the line for the Flames.

Which means, you'll see Kiprusoff pass the netminding duties to Brian Boucher at least once. And you may see someone like the always battered and bruised Darren McCarty given a breather.

But don't expect to see other key regulars scratched. Jarome Iginla has always maintained he doesn't want to skip a game. Rest assured, there won't be any begging for a night off.

Which leaves such a move to the discretion of GM/head coach Darryl Sutter.

Sutter also will try during these games to find out more about his players. Expect to see the Jamie Lundmark-Tony Amonte-Matthew Lombardi line go against the top scoring trios of the Kings and Ducks.

Watch for the Flames to roll four lines, in part to rest the likes of Iginla but also to reward checkers such as Byron Ritchie.

As a whole, though, the team will maintain a full-speed-ahead mindset, defenceman Andrew Ference said.

"It's tidying up your game and making sure you go into the playoffs flying," said Ference, pointing to the Flames' 7-0-2 run. "It's no secret you can't just dive into the playoffs and not be playing good hockey.

"We've been playing well over the last little stretch, elevated our game -- certain aspects of our game -- to good levels, so you don't want those to slip up."

Added Warrener: "There's not a switch you can turn on when the playoffs start ... If we start taking these two games lightly and just coast, guys will get hurt, we'll get some bad habits and we'll start the playoffs on a negative."


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