Flames still a work in progress

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

Credit is coming.

But the Calgary Flames don’t want to hear it right now.

A month ago, the Flames were written off, seemingly for good reason.

Rewind 31 days, and the Flames were on a three-game losing skid, sitting 14th place in the NHL’s Western Conference and had not shown any signs to believe they would recover.

Fast forward to this morning, and they are eighth place, thanks to a 13-3-4 run, and they are catching attention fast.

“We’re still not convinced we’ve convinced you guys that we’re a good team,” said Flames centre Brendan Morrison with a chuckle. “And that’s fine. We believe in what we’re doing in here. We have made up a lot of ground, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us, and we’re not going to sit here and be satisfied.

“We’ve got two months ahead of us.”

In every season, there are hurdles for teams to overcome. The next one for the Flames is to solidify their berth in the Stanley Cup tournament.

The risk they’re facing is to feel too much sense of accomplishment after such a solid run.

“That’s what we have to be aware of, not let our guard down,” said Flames defenceman Mark Giordano. “So far, we’ve done a good job of it, but there’s a really important stretch ahead, and we need to keep pushing. I don’t think we’ll (step back), because we know you can be in one day and out the next, so we have to keep pushing forward.

“It feels good to be in a playoff spot again, but day-to-day, it could change. You look all the way up to fourth, and it’s pretty tight. It’s an exciting opportunity for our team, and we feel if we keep playing the way we have been, we can keep moving up.”

Up next Wednesday night for the Flames is the Ottawa Senators, who had just one fewer point than them when they met Jan. 14 but have lost 10 straight (two in overtime) and claimed just one win in 17 outings (1-12-4).

When you’re talking about one of the league’s hottest team against one of the coldest, it should be an easy wager, but it’s the kind of game which could be lost if the Flames look past, say to the weekend back-to-back set at home to the Anaheim Ducks and the next night to the host Vancouver Canucks.

“We don’t focus on Ottawa. We focus on what we do — the way we can play — and that’s all,” said Flames centre Olli Jokinen. “That’s the team in our way, and we have to get the two points and move one.”

It sounds good — don’t think about the opponent, don’t become caught up in the moment — but does it seem possible?

You don’t think the Flames were thrilled to check out the standings and see themselves above the cutoff line and within a couple of points of fourth place in the West?

“I think we should be excited, and we should be proud of the fact we put ourselves in this situation, but we also have to stay even keel about it,” said Flames head coach Brent Sutter. “We have to keep our focus and keep doing what we’re doing. It’s not who we’re playing. It’s how we’re playing. That’s the most important thing.”

That, he said, is what they’ve done the past seven weeks and even beyond.

“Guys do feel good — there’s no question — and it’s been fun,” said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. “Winning is what we’re in the business of doing and a big part of having a good time, and our fans are back into it and excited.

“At the same time, we really haven’t gotten too far ahead of ourselves. We’ve been approaching every day, pretty much the same way. We’re staying pretty focused.

“It was hard not to get frustrated some of those nights, and we were trying to climb out of 14th. We weren’t getting those consistent wins when we were playing well.

“It’s the same way with streaks for goal-scorers, if you stay with it, you get those habits in place, and it will turn.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


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