Flames get off-day to make hay

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:18 AM ET

Instead of strapping on the blades or being forced to do an off-ice workout at the Saddledome, the Calgary Flames enjoyed a ‘recovery day’ to start their make-or-break week.

More like a mental health day.

Usually, a day away is meant to heal the body, help the players rest, allow some time to run all those errands we all have and possibly make the never-ending bumps and bruises to slightly dissipate.

In the case of the Flames, though, it’s more likely the day off from head coach Brent Sutter was to help them get away from the reminders which would come by heading down to the Dome.

Basically, clear their heads.

It’s may sound strange, but Sutter — proving he’s more of a players’ coach and less of a taskmaster than some people may think — is the type to realize a day off means so much to a team of players knowing full well they’re staring at the dragon’s den.

You know, shelter them from the negative vibes of being so close to being officially eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoff chase.

And the reminders.

Calgary’s Sunday afternoon defeat at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks was a tough blow to the team’s flickering playoff hopes.

The Colorado Avalanche’s overtime victory over the San Jose Sharks later Sunday has those hopes very close to being fully extinguished.

It could happen as early as Tuesday night. It’s over if the Flames lose in regulation time to the San Jose Sharks and the Avalanche beat the Vancouver Canucks, who clinched the Northwest Division title Sunday night and have little chance of moving up or down the seeding bracket.

That combination is hardly far-fetched, and you can bet the players know it.

Being reminded, though, would only make the frustration worse. And certainly make their tension build further. It’s already choking them.

You can see it in Jarome Iginla, the way the captain’s frustration keeps building with every game he doesn’t help the cause.

(Eight games without a goal and just one tally in 13 outings will certainly wear down anybody who has a history of being able to come up big when it’s needed most.)

You can see it in the likes of Matt Stajan and Niklas Hagman, given hope of making the playoffs thanks to a trade from Toronto, but struggling greatly down the stretch.

Stajan hasn’t scored in

14 games, while Hagman has just three tallies in 23 games as a Flame and missed out on a few grade-A scoring chances in Chicago.

You can see it in pretty much everybody associated with the Flames. That’s especially the case with coach Sutter, who has been at his wit’s end seemingly all season trying to figure out what buttons to press since the club’s freefall began in early December.

On Monday, Sutter played his last card to help the Flames make the playoffs. He gave his players one day away from the frustrations in the hopes they’ll return with renewed optimism, hope and determination to mount a three-game winning streak to end the season, and — maybe — receive a bit of luck. There are no other options remaining.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


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