SUN Hockey Pool

No time for Flames to look ahead

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:17 PM ET

EDMONTON — Talk about trying a near-impossible balancing act.

On one hand, the Calgary Flames know they probably must win all six remaining games to make the NHL playoffs.

On the other hand, they must focus on their first game in that collection of tilts.

That’s Saturday night’s affair in Edmonton against the last-place Oilers.

In the wake of Wednesday’s 6-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks, Flames head coach Brent Sutter said his team was worried too much about how many points were needed to punch a ticket to the Stanley Cup tournament and that was affecting their daily performance.

The players couldn’t argue.

“When we were winning, we weren’t worrying about things. We were just focused on the next game, not points,” said Flames forward Rene Bourque.

“I think I’ve got a little sidetracked looking ahead instead of focusing on those games we had, and I think we’ve tightened up a bit, played nervous and were thinking too much, and it had an effect on us.

“You probably saw it in the games.”

As a result, the Flames have just one win in their last seven outings (1-4-2) and need a winning streak to go with nightly help on the out-of-town scoreboard.

They’ve been told over the past couple of days to stop worrying about where they’ll finish and just let things happen. The theory of thinking about short-term goals worked earlier this season when they pulled out of what seemed an insurmountable hole in mid-January to be in a playoff position until a few weeks ago.

“Part of it is you get into the big games and you get into thinking, ‘OK, we gotta have it, gotta have it, gotta have it …’ ” said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. “Unfortunately, we’ve let a couple big points slip away from us, and then you start really thinking of the outcome.

“Winning all the games is the goal, but it’s really about preparing just for Edmonton. Prepare to work hard and compete. I think, at times, it’s easy — not just for us but a lot of teams — to start thinking about the outcome. When we’ve had the most success, it’s been just playing and playing hard and good things happening.”

What remains to be seen is if it’s too late to pull their plunging hopes out of the nose dive.

It’s not hard to hear the Flames fans who have written them off.

“We still think we can do it,” Iginla said. “We understand the odds are against us and can understand fans thinking it’s slim hopes, but we do think it’s possible and there still is hope. We start with one game.

“The biggest thing is if we can win one and get some momentum again, we’re going to have a chance to get some rest the next bit and load up for these next games. There’s a positive there.

“But we know our time is running out, and we need to get a win.”

As dire as their situation has become, the Flames were in relaxed spirits following Friday’s practice in Leduc.

During the bus ride from their hotel in Edmonton to Leduc, players watched some of the funny scenes from Bill Murray’s comedy Stripes.

On the ice, it was all business during an intense skate, but there were no long faces.

“We were feeling (awful) after those games, but we have nothing to lose now,” Bourque added. “We’re fighting for our lives and don’t have a choice, but you might as well be good about it and try and have fun while we’re doing it.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


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