Flames' only target: Avs

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:56 PM ET

CHICAGO — Waking up tied for eighth in the NHL Western Conference, the Calgary Flames have to be feeling pretty good about their playoff chances.

Better than they have in weeks.

But much work lies ahead, and they are well aware of it.

“There’s been enough discussed. The stakes haven’t changed any,” said Flames head coach Brent Sutter. “We have to win games. If we take a step back, we’re not gonna make it.”

And even if the Flames run the table and sweep the Chicago Blackhawks, the San Jose Sharks, the Minnesota Wild and the Vancouver Canucks, there are no guarantees they come away with more points than the Colorado Avalanche — who have five games left against the Sharks, the Canucks, the Edmonton Oilers, the Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings.

“Who knows what’s going to happen?” shrugged Flames winger Rene Bourque.

“They’re playing (Sunday) night, too, against San Jose. They still have that game in hand, which is big. But if we take care of our business and win out, I think we have a pretty good chance.”

Win every game, and the Flames finish with 97 points.

They need to earn at least one more than the Avs, who can hit 99 if they win all their remaining contests and own the season-series tiebreaker.

The Sharks, the Blackhawks, the Canucks, the Phoenix

Coyotes and the Nashville Predators have locked up berths.

Just one more point can secure the same for the Detroit Red Wings. Only the Kings (94 points as of Saturday afternoon) and the Avalanche are within striking distance, and only the Avs are a realistic target.

“We’re in a very high pressure situation,” said Flames defenceman Robyn Regehr. “We have been for two weeks.”

Finally, a game worthy of being dubbed the biggest of their season came and went with a win over the Avs Friday night.

Knowing they can’t let off the gas, there’s still a feeling they have to run the table to guarantee themselves a spot in the playoffs despite how poorly the Avalanche have played recently.

“We haven’t accomplished what we wanted to, yet. You can’t take time to reflect on anything,” Regehr said. “All we should be thinking about is how we need to play against Chicago.”

And there’s the next massive challenge.

Losers of seven straight contests against the ’Hawks, the Flames face one of the league’s best in a road game during the most important week of their season.

Motivation shouldn’t be a problem. Not only are they a nemesis standing in the way of them and the post-season, but the Hawks are a potential first-round matchup if the Flames manage to join them in the playoffs.

“If we’re gonna make it, we’re gonna have to beat some good teams,” Bourque said. “It’s not gonna be easy, but if we keep playing like we have, hopefully, we can continue to get some points.

“When we’re playing like we can, I think we can beat anybody.”

Even the ’Hawks?

“It was like that with Colorado, too,” Regehr said when the winless ways against the Blackhawks is brought up. “We won the last two games against (the Avs). It shows you it can be done.

“I know we haven’t have a lot of success against this team lately, but what a great time to change it.”

Their three-game winning streak has changed some feelings back home, with cautious optimism now making its way through the fan base.

“It doesn’t matter to us,” Regehr said of the renewed faith that he says has been in the dressing room all along. “It matters to us what guys think in here.”

Well … that and making the playoffs.


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