SUN Hockey Pool

Deja vu? No Tanks!

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

Despite the name changes over the years, the site remains the Shark Tank.

For the hometown San Jose Sharks and their faithful, it's a term of endearment.

For visiting NHL squads, especially this season, it's a term of derision.

For the Calgary Flames exactly nine weeks ago, it was the scene of a low point in the season, a 6-1 shellacking in a game they went into knowing was a measuring-stick affair.

It's also the catalyst that turned their fortunes around.

"That was a game to remember in November," said Flames head coach Mike Keenan. "Many teams have had games to remember in San Jose so far this season.

"We want to be really well prepared (tonight). We know their recent game against us going to have both teams ready. We want to live up to the opportunity and challenge we're going to face."

The Flames exacted a bit of revenge on the Sharks just over a week ago at the Saddledome with a 5-2 win that was quite possibly their best start-to-finish performance and certainly their most positive first period.

Still, as they face the league's top club tonight at HP Pavilion, there has to be some form of retribution on their collective minds.

It has to bring out something of a Remember-the-Alamo cry.

Doesn't it?

"Of course, we all remember it," said goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. "But I think we have to learn from it. We know they're going to come out hard because they're one of the best, if not the best, first-period teams in the league.

"We have to have a simple road start. If you're able to stay in the game early, it's going to be better and better for us.

"For me, they're the top team in the league and it's a tough building, so I know it's going to be a tough game. It's two points we need."

The Sharks were already proving to be a powerhouse team at that point and have continued to march ahead of the rest of the league.

After that November loss, the Flames were a middle-of-the-pack squad, sitting around the .500 mark because they were surrendering too many goals, taking too many penalties and playing with too little purpose.

Since that defeat, they've rocketed past their fellow Northwest Division squads with a 17-4-3 run, having improved their fortunes with better defensive play and a more structured game.

For them, tonight's game isn't so much about retribution as it is about proving a point.

The Flames want to show they are indeed a force to be reckoned with and deserve to be included in the Western Conference's upper echelon.

Right now, the Flames have three games in hand on the Vancouver Canucks, who sit seven points back in the Northwest Division race, while the other three squads are 11 points in arrears.

"We've got to separate ourselves from the rest of our division," said forward Curtis Glencross. "That's what our goal is and that's what we want to do. Our mindset is to catch Detroit, San Jose, all those guys, so it's a huge game for us."

As Michael Cammalleri pointed out, maybe the Sharks see tonight's game as a test for themselves, too.

"We're starting to earn a little bit of respect and I think they're probably going to want to compete and battle that game, probably use it as a measuring stick for their team, too," he said. "It plays the same way for both of us."


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