SUN Hockey Pool

Flames still have fire for finale

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:01 AM ET

EDMONTON -- Their playoff fate may be determined by the time they hit the Saddledome ice, but the Calgary Flames are set on making their last game count.

If the Vancouver Canucks win their afternoon matchup, the Flames game won't matter in the standings.

But there's plenty on the line in their eyes.

"We're still in it as of now," said defenceman Jordan Leopold.

"What is it, fan appreciation night tomorrow night? We want to put on a good show for the fans."

The fans are one reason to get up for tonight's rematch with the Edmonton Oilers after an embarrassing 5-1 loss at Rexall Place last night.

"I think we owe them," said Adam Pardy, who played both forward and on the back end yesterday because of the shortage of players. "So we're going to be ready for it."

Talk is cheap, and the Flames are going to have to back up their words with actions on home ice to convince anyone they're capable of recovering from their injury woes and recent losses to make any noise in the playoffs.

A Canucks point over the Colorado Avalanche would send the Flames to Chicago for the first round. A loss in regulation gives Calgary new life because they'll own the tiebreaker with more wins on the season.

"Anything can happen. I've seen stranger things happen," said Pardy, who ended up with nearly 20 minutes of icetime in Edmonton.

"We still have one more game left and we have to use that to get ready for the playoffs."

That's another big reason for the Flames not to mail in their final game, even if the Canucks lock up the Northwest Division title.

"We've got to improve, no matter what happens," said Leopold. "We've got stuff to take care of."

Meaning there will be no one on this team watching their TV sets instead of preparing for their own game when the puck drops on the Canucks game at 1 p.m.

"No, I won't be watching that," said Pardy, letting out a quick laugh.

"We've got to make sure we're focused on the game. Regardless what happens in that game, we've still got to play -- and we still want to win.

"We don't want to go into the playoffs on a losing streak."

Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff's fate may also be determined by the time their game is set to begin.

There's a possibility head coach Mike Keenan will give him the night off in favour of backup Curtis McElhinney if the Canucks clinch.

Kiprusoff is more than willing to go in for his 76th game regardless. He was pulled about a dozen minutes into the third period last night after the third Oilers goal.

"We'll see what's going to happen. I haven't talked with Mike yet," said Kiprusoff. "If they want me to play, I'm ready to go.

"I don't think they have made the decision yet."

The decision may not come till late afternoon, but Kiprusoff is in agreement with his teammates on the importance of a big finish to get them feeling good about themselves.

"We want a strong game," he said. "It'd be nice to have a win before the playoffs start."

STEVE.MACFARLANE@SUNMEDIA.CA


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