That sinking feeling

Calgary Flames' Mikka Kiprusoff reacts after giving up a goal to Chicago Blackhawks. (REUTERS/Frank...

Calgary Flames' Mikka Kiprusoff reacts after giving up a goal to Chicago Blackhawks. (REUTERS/Frank Polich)

RANDY SPORTAK

, Last Updated: 12:26 AM ET

As if Calgary Flames fans didn’t already have their reasons to dislike the San Jose Sharks.

The Sharks’ disappointing performance Sunday night, a 5-4 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche, takes that hatred to a new level.

After all, the Sharks’ defeat has the Flames’ playoff hopes on life support, with the chance the Flames could be eliminated as early as Tuesday night.

“Do we care? That’s the question,” said Sharks forward Joe Thornton after an optional practice in anticipation of facing the Flames. “It’s hockey. You try to win every game, and sometimes it just doesn’t happen.

“It worked out in the Avalanche favour more than Calgary’s favour.

“We’re playing to get first in the West, and that was a big two points up for grabs, and we only got one of them. It was disappointing for us.”

Disappointing? Obviously, there are different degrees of disappointment.

Heading into their clash with the Flames at the Saddledome, the Sharks sit atop the NHL’s Western Conference, two points ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Sure, the Blackhawks are in the driver’s seat, having a game in hand and with one more victory at this time, but the potential pitfall for the Sharks pales in comparison to what the Flames are facing.

The Sharks are staring at most likely facing either the seventh-place team or the eighth-place team in the first round of the playoffs.

The Flames are looking at the very real possibility — make that likelihood — they won’t be in the second season, sitting ninth in the Western Conference and two points back of the Avalanche.

“We don’t care about the Flames. We don’t care about the other 29 teams,” Thornton said, with a comment that sounds worse than his intent. “We want to come in and win, it doesn’t matter who we play against. It doesn’t matter who’s in the playoffs and who’s not in the playoffs.

“It’s business as usual. We’ll go for two points (Tuesday).”

The Flames-Sharks game is hardly business as usual for the hosts. Calgary is facing the possibility of being eliminated. A regulation-time defeat at the hands of the Sharks combined with a Colorado victory at the Vancouver Canucks would seal their fate.

The Flames are in dire need of a three-game winning streak, and even if they manage that feat with games against the Sharks, the Minnesota Wild and the Canucks, they can’t afford for the Avs to win two or their final four games.

The Flames had a three-game winning streak snapped with their 4-1 loss Sunday to the Chicago Blackhawks. That defeat became double disappointment when the Sharks blew a two-goal, first-period lead, erased a 4-2 deficit of their own but then fell in extra time.

Had the Sharks won, the Flames’ playoff hopes would seem more possible.

Now, the Flames are looking for a miracle.

That’s hardly a concern for the Sharks, though.

“We’re playing for something, too,” Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov said. “We have Chicago on our butts, and Phoenix is right there. It’s not easy this time of year — you go to every building and pretty much every team is desperate for something. It’s not easy.

“We played a great first period and kinda disappeared. I don’t know if it was us or them, but our goal hasn’t changed. We want to win every game.”

Since the NHL returned to action after the Olympics, the Sharks have compiled an 8-7-2 record.

By comparison, the Flames have gone 10-7-0, but it hasn’t been enough to get over the hump, even with the skid by the Avalanche.

Now, the Flames need to win and help they didn’t receive from the Sharks.

The Flames have a chance for a little payback, but that may end up a small consolation.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


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