SUN Hockey Pool

Flames' survival options brighten

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:08 PM ET

DALLAS — Unless the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes actually finalizes soon — wasn’t there a Dec. 31, 2010, drop-dead date? — the Calgary Flames may be readying for their final trip to the desert.

Considering the way things have gone lately for the Flames when they’re on the road to face the Desert Dogs, that could be a good thing.

Heading into Thursday night’s clash between the Flames and Coyotes at the always sparsely crowded Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, the Flames are on a three-game losing skid in Arizona, a stretch which includes the 5-4 loss in mid-November.

Their last victory in the Phoenix suburb was on Valentines Day 2009.

But this trip isn’t about getting a tan — the forecasted high for Thursday is 28C — or playing a round of golf while most Calgarians are still staring at snow-covered front lawns or even finding some souvenirs with a final visit.

It’s a chance to gain something of a hold on a playoff spot.

A chance the Flames can ill afford to pass up.

With one month remaining in the season, the Flames schedule is filled with games against other clubs in the playoff chase tighter than the league’s powers could hope for.

However, teams are starting to fall by the wayside, which means a playoff spot is starting to become even more within the grasp of the Flames — provided they continue to win a few more than they lose.

Based on the criteria of winning two of every three games, or the equivalent, the Flames need nine wins in their

14 outings counting Wednesday night’s clash with the Dallas Stars. That would mean a 97-point season, which should guarantee a playoff spot.

In fact, it could be even better depending on how the games shake down for all the other teams down the stretch.

Especially the five in the Pacific Division, who are in the playoff picture.

Starting this weekend, those five teams will begin a heavy intra-division schedule.

The good news for the Flames, as well as the Minnesota Wild, is that number of games will open a window or two for a playoff spot.

As much as it can feel like all those teams around the Flames are winning every night, it will no longer be the case.

If the Dallas Stars win all seven of their remaining divisional games, rest assured the Los Angeles Kings or Anaheim Ducks won’t be celebrating their eight games.

Nor the Coyotes, who have six divisional games remaining.

And if those teams play to a .500 record in all those clashes — provided there aren’t too many three-point nights — an opening exists.

The Flames miraculously put themselves in a position where they control their own destiny in the playoff race.

Games against an under-manned Coyotes team — Ed Jov-anovski is for sure out, while Derek Morris, Martin Hanzal and Ray Whitney are all questionable due to injuries — are golden chances to steer themselves into playoff territory.


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