SUN Hockey Pool

Ready to unload

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:26 PM ET

EDMONTON — A win in the NHL is worth two points, whether it’s via shootout, a last-second tally or a converted touchdown.

All the Calgary Flames are concerned with heading into Saturday night’s clash with the Edmonton Oilers is gaining two points.

However, with their playoff hopes hanging by a thread and in need of a real spark down the final stretch, it’s almost paramount the Flames lay a beatdown on their provincial rivals at Rexall Place.

It would bode well for their psyche while trying to run the table over their final six regular-season games.

It would also give their fans hope there is a possibility the Flames are capable of making the post-season and, in turn, get behind their cause.

Let’s face it, the Oilers team going up against the Flames in the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast is hardly the team fans of the Edmonton club were so excited about when the puck dropped on the season in October.

And it’s nothing akin to the squad that beat their provincial rivals 4-0 in the season-opener.

The Oilers’ injured list is filled with the names fans recognize, including rookie sensation Taylor Hall and vets Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner, Ryan Whitney and Gilbert Brule.

What’s left are a bunch of freshmen with big expectations in Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi and Linus Omark, a few known veterans such as Ladislav Smid and Andrew Cogliano and a whack of players who would be barely recognized outside Edmonton.

It’s a crew which has lost eight straight games en route to posting the worst record in the league and has scored just seven times in those outings.

If the Flames are as desperate for a win as they say they are — and as prepared as they must be — they should come up with a decisive victory.

“It’s not about the opponent we play. It’s about ourselves and how we play,” said Flames head coach Brent Sutter.

Sure it is. And should his players actually provide the performance they’ve spent the last two days readying to cobble together after dropping their third game in as many tries in California, this game has the opportunity to be a whitewash.

Not that the Flames would admit it.

“We know they have been hurt, but a lot of us have played a long time and been in situations where you have a young team out of the playoffs, so guys are playing hard, earning ice time for next year, earning spots and just being competitive,” said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. “We’re all competitive. We all want to win, and we know they’d like nothing better than to try and end our hopes.

“From our point of view, in these six (games), we’re going to try to just think about ourselves, make sure we’re skating, make sure we’re competing hard, working, being better defensively … those types of things. Not so much about which team and what it is over there.

“When we’ve got ourselves going the last three months, we’ve really been focused on ourselves.”

That could be a good sign for their cause.

Over the past couple of weeks, the Flames became sidetracked thinking about their spot in the standings, thinking about what was happening on the out-of-town scoreboard and tabulating how many points they’ll need to be a playoff team.

While the pressure of trying to climb the mountain built up, every loss has become more and more crushing.

The Oilers — a team with a roster filled with players who would normally be in the minors — could be facing the brunt of an emotional release.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak

More Flames: Pages 4-5 & 17


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