SUN Hockey Pool

No time for Flames to coast

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:52 PM ET

They feasted on the Colorado Avalanche, and now, the Calgary Flames must get hungry for a California roll.

Unless the Flames make some hay on this next road trip, they will be cooked in the NHL’s Western Conference playoff race.

As important as Thursday’s 5-2 win over the Avs is, beating the 14th-place team was expected.

When the Flames roll into Anaheim Sunday, Los Angeles Monday and San Jose Wednesday, they will be facing much better competition.

“This is the last big road trip of the year and we have to make a bit of a statement on this one,” said Flames defenceman Cory Sarich.

“We still have a long road to go but (Thursday) was a good stepping stone on how we need to play.”

With Thursday’s win, the Flames leapt back into the top eight, surpassing the Anaheim Ducks, who have three games in hand on Calgary.

In the final nine outings, the Flames face the Ducks twice, which means they can do some damage with regulation wins.

The Flames wake up in eighth Saturday, but they could be in 10th by the time the puck drops Sunday night.

“We will be coming out with our best effort. Sunday is going to be like a Game 7 for us,” said first-line winger Alex Tanguay. “We know we haven’t had success in their building, so it’s time to turn it around.

“This is pretty much a do-or-die. They have games in hand on us, and we’ll see Sunday when we get there where we sit.

“We will have to win.”

While Flames head coach Brent Sutter said after Thursday’s win over the Avs he was happy with his team’s overall play, there were times when the Flames were sloppy.

Maybe they were playing down to competition and lower intensity level when the opposition isn’t playing with the urgency of a playoff race.

That won’t be the case over the three-game-in-four-nights trip.

“Sometimes, it’s tough when the other team isn’t coming at you as normal,” Sarich said about the win over Colorado.

“It takes a lot of mental strength to stay in a game like that. Our guys did a good job.”

Since the Heritage Classic, the Flames are 1-4-1 against teams currently ahead of them in the West.

They at least should be fresh heading out on the road.

After taking a ‘recovery’ day, they hit the ice Saturday for a quick practice before jetting off.

And confidence isn’t a problem, according to the players.

“A big win goes a long way,” said Flames blueliner Mark Giordano.

“But it doesn’t get any bigger than this.

“Anaheim is a good team. We know what they are all about. They have a great powerplay. I’m looking forward to playing in a big playoff type game.”

If the Flames can get three of the possible six points in this three-game set, they could be fine. Of the final six games, two are against 15th-place Edmonton, while they face Colorado again and 13th-place St. Louis as well.

But the two meetings with the Ducks could decide things.

“Obviously, every game is like a Game 7,” said Sutter.

“That’s the way it’s going to be.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/ianbusby57


Videos

Photos