SUN Hockey Pool

Sharks feasted in Calgary last time

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

Craig Conroy is almost back to even.

Might not sound like a major accomplishment, but the Calgary Flames pivot has been trying to climb out of a hole ever since a career-worst minus-five outing against the San Jose Sharks earlier this season left him skating in another sort of red.

“Every rush they went down, it seemed like they scored on us,” Conroy recalled. “Just one of those nights.”

One of those nights the Flames would probably rather forget.

The Sharks visit the Saddledome Friday to face off against the Flames for the first time since a 9-1 shellacking Jan. 18 at HP Pavilion in San Jose, the lowest point of a nine-game losing skid that’s left Brent Sutter’s squad fighting tooth-and-nail for an invite to the playoff party.

Now just one point behind the Detroit Red Wings in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the Flames can’t afford to be treated like Shark bait again.

They’re not thinking about revenge. They just need two points, plain and simple.

“In the hockey world, you never have a short memory,” Sutter said. “Yet, we’re in a situation where we’ve got other goals here that are obviously very, very big, and we need to win games. Tomorrow night now becomes the biggest game of the year for us, and that’s how we have to approach it.

“Whatever you need to use to motivate yourself — even though at this time of year, you shouldn’t need much because every game is so big — we’ll use it. But our focus is to win the game.”

Robyn Regehr, the lone goal-scorer in the Flames’ most recent brush with the Sharks, echoed that mantra.

“I think you have to approach poor games or setbacks and whatever you want to call them the same. You have to learn from them and try not to make the same mistakes again,” Regehr said. “So if guys want to use that as extra motivation, then that’s great.

“But we really shouldn’t need it. You look at the situation we’re in and the number of games we have left, and guys should be ready.”

The Sharks, who visit Calgary again April 6, are currently sitting atop the Western Conference standings, thanks in large part to one of the NHL’s most prolific attacks.

Heading into Thursday’s late game against the Canucks in Vancouver, the Sharks ranked third in the league with an average of 3.19 goals per game.

Linemates Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau — a trio so dangerous that all three were selected to suit up for Team Canada at the Olympics — are each among the NHL’s top dozen point-producers.

And Conroy, who now has a minus-one rating for the season, knows the lesser-lites can chip in, too. During the Flames’ mid-January beatdown in the Bay area, eight different Sharks lit the lamp.

“They just have so much firepower,” Conroy said. “It just seems like they take advantage. If you turn the puck over, you make mistakes when they’re on top of their game, they capitalize. That’s when they’re so dangerous is when they’re feeling it.

“That top line is probably, with the Ovechkin line, one of the top two lines in the league. And the rest of the guys ... Every line has to be on top of their game when we play San Jose because any line can sting you.”


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