Flames' Sutter still optimistic

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:05 PM ET

SAN JOSE — Scoreboard watching is something the Calgary Flames are doing their best to avoid.

It’s easy to understand why.

Not only is it a case of wasting energy worrying about something they can’t control, but flipping on many of the games featuring teams around them in the playoff chase would be as scary to watch as a Hitchcock thriller.

And as disappointing as anything turned out by M. Night Shyamalan since The Sixth Sense.

Just think about this past weekend.

One night after beating the suddenly injury-riddled Detroit Red Wings, the Nashville Predators complete an incredible comeback — down by two with less than three minutes remaining — to win in overtime against the Buffalo Sabres. They also beat the Boston Bruins less than a week ago.

The Anaheim Ducks rattled off overtime wins on consecutive nights, despite being outplayed by a big margin in Los Angeles on Saturday and then gassing a three-goal lead and falling behind 4-3 to the Flames the next night.

To go further, the Dallas Stars snared a point with a two-goal comeback before falling to Philadelphia in overtime, Phoenix upended the Canucks in Vancouver, and Detroit has barely beat any Western Conference contenders since mid-January — after completing the season sweep of the Flames.

Suffice to say, the Flames can’t rely on help from others.

But the other side of the coin is how those teams have done something the Flames haven’t been able to the past two weeks — made the most of their opportunities.

Consider the last six games for the Flaming C:

- A couple of duds against the Phoenix Coyotes.

- A blown lead at home against the Vancouver Canucks.

- A win over a Colorado Avalanche team that can’t beat anybody.

- A couple of extra-time losses in California.

It’s the wrong part of the season to go on a swoon, and the Flames are on the verge of running out of time.

“We know games are dwindling down, but there’s still 14 points left to be had,” said Flames head coach Brent Sutter, who gave his charges a day off Tuesday. “We just have to focus on one game at a time and accumulate as many points as we can.

“We’ve played pretty well on this trip. Unfortunately, we haven’t got the full amount of points on this trip we’d like to have, but we’ve got two of four and have an opportunity.”

Having an opportunity and making the most of it are two different things.

The Flames are nearing the point where they essentially must run the table or receive some help. Maybe even both.

“You can’t dwell on that,” Sutter said. “That’s the difference with the team, the group this year compared to last year. We’re more in the battle this year than last year with seven games left.

“Yes, teams have games in hand, but just because they have games in hand doesn’t mean anything unless they win them. And those teams play each other a lot.

“Our last three games, we’ve played some pretty good hockey. Those are encouraging, positive signs. All you can ask of your players is to throw it out there, do what they can and play a team game.

“We’re in a situation to just focus on ourselves, take care of our own business, and see what happens.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


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