SUN Hockey Pool

Flames plan to go streaking

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:01 PM ET

A home-and-home series. Now, that’s a way to get a rivalry going.

Imagine the buzz around the Stampede City and the Alberta capital if the Calgary Flames were about to embark on a two-game set with the Edmonton Oilers. It would sure add some extra jam to a battle for a pair of near-the-basement NHL teams.

For the Flames, though, a set with the Minnesota Wild will have to do, which is the case when the 13th-place Flames face the 14th-place Wild Saturday night at the Saddledome and then meet Monday in snow-covered St. Paul.

“It’s exciting,” said Flames centre Matt Stajan. “You don’t see it too often. I know we play our own division a lot, but when it’s home and home against a division rival, it’s a little more exciting.

“You’re preparing for a team — not just one game but two games, and we’ve got to be ready.”

The Flames went into the final six pre-Christmas games with the goal of reaching the .500 mark by the break. (Yes, overtime and shootout losses count as ties in that formula).

Having posted wins over the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Toronto Maple Leafs to start their three-game homestand, the Flames sit with a 14-15-3 mark, so that goal is within reach.

Keep winning games, and they may just manage to join the cluster of clubs siting within a few points of each other in the battle for the lower playoff spots.

“Chip away — that’s our mentality,” said Flames defenceman Mark Giordano. “Our goal is get to .500 and, from there, chip away. You know at the end of the year, you’ll need to be well above .500 to get into the playoffs. But you have to get to .500 first, which we have the opportunity to do now. And, from there, get more wins than losses.”

The Flames have a 3-1-1 mark in their last five games — 5-3-1 in the last nine — and may have a shot of digging out from the hole caused by their early-season struggles.

The Wild have lost two straight and posted a 2-5-2 mark in their last nine.

It’s not do-or-die, but a Flames sweep in this two-game series would set them up nicely before finishing the pre-Christmas portion of their schedule with games in Columbus and in Dallas.

“It’s an important weekend for us,” Giordano said. “If you look at our conference, you string a few together and you’re right back in the mix.

“We keep playing that same style — aggressive hockey — like we have the past few weeks, and we’ll be fine.”

As long as they don’t return to the roller-coaster type of play we saw for a month: Good game, bad game …

“We’ve got to win (Saturday) night to make (Thursday) count. It’s a relief and a huge win, but you get back at it and have to keep winning,” Stajan said. “Our team can’t be satisfied with a couple of wins. We have to keep this going and keep building off it.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


Videos

Photos