Playin’ proud promised for final pair

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:54 PM ET

Don’t drain the Sea of Red just yet.

It doesn’t amount to squat in the standings, but the Calgary Flames insist Thursday’s meeting with the Minnesota Wild is far from meaningless.

“It’s obviously tough when you get knocked out of the playoffs, but we have a couple of games left and it’s about pride — pride for the team, pride for yourself,” said Flames winger Eric Nystrom.

“You’ve gotta love to win, even when the circumstances aren’t in your favour. We’re out of the playoffs, but we still want to win in here and go out on a good note.”

Those sentiments echoed through the bowels of the Saddledome after Wednesday’s morning skate.

“We want to play the right way, play hard for our fans,” offered captain Jarome Iginla. “It doesn’t mean much, as far as being out of the playoffs, we can still finish the right way. It’s still hockey, still in the NHL, still fun. We have to make sure we focus on those things.”

And don’t just take it from them.

Proof he’s serious about giving the Saddledome faithful something to cheer about in the final home game of the season, head coach Brent Sutter told reporters Wednesday he planned to start Miikka Kiprusoff between the pipes and stick with the same lineup he iced in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks.

Minus injured forwards Daymond Langkow, Curtis Glencross and Christopher Higgins, all the big guns will be in uniform.

While several non-playoff teams are already holding open auditions for roster spots next fall, Sutter is starting with the internal candidates.

“I think that’s first and foremost — we’ve gotta play hard,” he said.

“Obviously, things haven’t worked out the way we would’ve liked to see happen this year, but you still have an obligation to the front of that jersey, you have an obligation to yourself and your teammates and you have an obligation to the tremendous fans that support this franchise through thick and thin.”

Of all the questions overheard Wednesday at the Saddledome, none involved keeping Wild catalyst Mikko Koivu off the scoreboard, ignoring pest Cal Clutterbuck or slipping pucks past Niklas Backstrom.

But defenceman Jay Bouwmeester insisted the Flames have Minnesota on their minds.

“Any time you’re on the outside looking in, that’s never where anybody wants to be,” Bouwmeester said.

“So yeah, today’s a tough day, but we’ve got two games left and we’ve gotta save a little face.”


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