SUN Hockey Pool

Tale of the tape

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:01 AM ET

The playoffs are now all but guaranteed for the Calgary Flames this spring.

Who they will face in the first round, however, may not be decided until the last night of the regular season Sunday.

Players and coaches are too focused on honing their bodies and minds for the post-season to ponder potential matchups but pundits free of superstitions are able to discuss the possibilities with Calgary just two points away from clinching a spot.

The seventh or eighth seed is most likely for the Flames, who have four games remaining, which means they could start their drive for the Stanley Cup in Detroit, Nashville or Anaheim.

Those three teams are scrapping it out for the top spot in the west as well as the Presidents' Trophy for the league's best record.

"I would say I would want to play against Nashville if I were Calgary," said TSN and NBC analyst Pierre McGuire, impressed by the way the Flames have returned to their gritty style down the stretch.

"I think an overall hitting game would probably be the kind of game Nashville wouldn't be overly comfortable with even though they're not a shy team.

"I see a team that's really starting to come together. I see a team that's playing more of a resilient road game. If they play their mean-spirited Calgary Flames type of game, which they're starting to get back to -- in a good way, not a bad way -- I see them being able to win."

The Preds have dominated the Flames in the regular season the last few years. Calgary snapped a lengthy losing streak this month with its first win over Nashville since pre-lockout days. McGuire says the past means nothing when it comes to the post-season.

"You can't put too much stock into what your regular-season record was against a team. It can get blown up," said McGuire. "I've seen Ottawa dominate Toronto for years in the regular season then get in the playoffs and lose to them."

Former Flames GM Craig Button, now a Western Conference scout with the Leafs, is convinced the Flames are ready for any of their possible matchups but says they may be most motivated by a rematch against the Ducks, who ousted the Flames from the first round in seven games a year ago.

"They have every incentive to play well against Anaheim based on last year's playoffs," said Button.

The Ducks are in the back of some Flames players' minds. Once they wrap up their berth, defenceman Robyn Regehr says he'll cheer for the easiest travel schedule for the first round. Travel aside, his eyes lit up a little when Anaheim was mentioned.

"That would be nice," he said of a potential meeting with the Ducks and a shot at retribution. "Anyone who was here last year remembers the way it felt when it ended."

Winger Jeff Friesen, a member of that Ducks that upset the Flames, also expressed interest in facing his former team. But with things so tight in the Western Conference, he doesn't see any easy prey in the opening round.

Calgary has had recent success against the Red Wings, their second-round victim during the 2004 run, but McGuire says that's the one team he'd be wary of.

"I think Detroit learned their lesson from last year, playing against Edmonton," he said, adding they lacked toughness in their game but have since added that edge.

"Adding players like Kyle Calder, Todd Bertuzzi, elevating the minutes for Johan Franzen, I think they've learned how to do that. They're going to have a real rested Henrik Zetterberg. That would be the one team I really wouldn't be in a rush to play against."

Button, who uses goaltending as a primary matchup gauge, believes the Flames are ready for anyone right now.

"I really don't see any advantage in Calgary playing one team or the other. When you look at the west, what goalie do you not want to play against other than (Miikka) Kiprusoff. The only guy that can come in his category is (Roberto) Luongo and this is his first playoffs," Button said. "Kiprusoff wins the battle in the net every time in my view.

"If the last (six) games are any indication for the Calgary Flames, the teams at the top may be going, 'Oooohh, maybe we don't want to finish in first place.' "

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HOW THE FLAMES STACK UP

ANAHEIM DUCKS

Season series: 2-2

On home ice: 2-0

@ Anaheim: 0-2

Playoff history: 2006 -- Ducks won in seven, 1st round.

DETROIT RED WINGS

Season series: 2-2

On home ice: 2-0

@ Detroit: 0-2

Playoff history: 2004 -- Flames won in six, 2nd round.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

Season series: 1-3

On home ice: 1-1

@ Nashville: 0-2

Playoff history: None.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

Season series: 4-3-1

On home ice: 2-2

@ Vancouver: 2-1-1

Playoff history: 2004 -- Flames beat Canucks in seven, 1st round.

1994 -- Canucks beat Flames in seven, 1st round.

1989 -- Flames beat Canucks in seven, 1st round.

1984 -- Flames beat Canucks in four (best-of-five), 1st round.

1983 -- Flames beat Canucks in four (best-of-five, 1st round.

1982 -- Canucks beat Flames in three (best-of-five), 1st round.


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