Flames hungry for a win

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

CALGARY - Let Carey Price have his new mask.

Miikka Kiprusoff wants the two points.

Buried in the avalanche of exposure that has descended onto the city of Calgary for this weekend's Heritage Classic is the fact this one game could ultimately decide the Flames' fate this season.

The Western Conference picture is that tight. Two points could be the difference between suiting up in the spring or swinging for the greens.

So while many fans will appreciate Price's retro paint job Sunday when his Montreal Canadiens take on the Flames at McMahon Stadium, the locals should also welcome Kiprusoff's approach.

"I'm not getting a new mask," Kiprusoff said Friday. "It's one game. It's outside, but ... I treat it as a regular-season game."

Take away the overindulgent attention, the outdoor setting, the additional 20,000 fans and the massive corporate payday, and that's all the Classic is -- a regular-season game worth two points (or three if it comes down to overtime or a shootout like the last meeting between these two clubs).

"It's a big event, and it's something that I want the players and everyone to enjoy and have fun with it," said Flames head coach Brent Sutter.

"But we also need to make sure our focus is where it (needs to be) Sunday."

The sixth regular-season outdoor game in NHL history will easily be the most meaningful.

Simply based on the later stage of the season and the fact both teams are in the thick of the playoff battle, it dwarfs the stakes in the four Winter Classics and original Heritage Classic in Edmonton in 2003 set up as a celebration of an Oilers anniversary.

Funny, because until a month or so ago when the Flames started their dramatic turnaround, this game was pegged as the last that would carry any interest for the team's fans.

"It's nice there is excitement around it," said Jarome Iginla. "We want to enjoy it because it's a rare opportunity. At the same time, we're preparing.

"Yeah, it's exciting for the city, our fans, our families, and we'll enjoy playing it, but we have a game to focus on, our same focus we've been going with.

The entire Flames team has the same idea as the goaltender.

They'll be wearing unique throwback uniforms, but the look of their season hasn't changed any.

As they sit idle, other Western Conference teams are earning points to push past them or create separation in the race.

"We're preparing for a regular game," Iginla said.

"This is different, but it's our job to be focused. We have a game to prepare for, but our plan is to keep doing what we've been doing."

Motivation is as easy as peeking at the standings.

The Heritage Classic is a big game. All of them have been, and will remain so the rest of the year.

"It certainly puts things into perspective for us," said winger Alex Tanguay.

"We all want to soak it in. We all want to take as much as we can from the experience. Some of us might never get to do it again. It doesn't happen very often, and it's a very unique experience.

"But we're going to try to soak it in with a big win. That's our focus.

" They might be a little looser. Their situation might be a little better than ours.

"As far as we're concerned, this is a game we need to have."

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