|Calgary Flames right wing Jarome Iginla scores a goal against the San Jose Sharks during the first period of their Ngame in San Jose, Calif., Wednesday. The Flames lost 6-3. (Chad Ziemendorf, Reuters)
EDMONTON - The Calgary Flames need to win one in a row before contemplating running the table on their remaining regular-season games to make the playoffs.
Three consecutive losses on a trip through California left the Flames on the outside of the playoff picture heading into Saturday's game against the Edmonton Oilers.
With six games left on their schedule going into the contest, another loss could all but kill their playoff aspirations.
"We will be just taking each game as a must-win, there is no other way around it," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. "The one side is that with our schedule now we can load up for one game, get a few days off, and load up again.
"But in order to win the six that we want, we have to win the first, we need to get back on the winning side and we have to build some momentum."
A week ago, the Flames controlled their playoff destiny, having put together an impressive run following the firing of their general manager Darryl Sutter.
The Flames went from 14th place in December to seventh a week ago.
Yet despite having the fewest games left of all the teams contending for the final playoff spots in the Western Conference, the Flames are not ready to throw in the towel.
Six straight wins to close out the season would give the Flames 97 points on the year, which could be enough to get in. Last season, 95 points was the cut off mark. The year before that it was 91.
"We've been in a must-win situation for a while," Iginla said. "I thought we had some pretty good games on our last road trip, unfortunately we didn't get as many points as we would have liked.
"But as far as the urgency of knowing how important each game means, we definitely know that. We know how many wins we need, but we still have to play within ourselves and be confident."
Considering the direction their season was heading prior to Sutter's dismissal, the Flames have done well to get to this point.
There are suggestions the impressive run in January and February may have caught up to the team in late March.
"For three months, we got ourselves back in it by playing some really good, consistent hockey," said Iginla. "But I don't know that it's taken a lot out of us. It's been fun. It's been a good stretch for us and we've had some success.
"But when it's so long, you can't afford too many hiccups. Over the course of the season you have some, and if we hadn't of had the tough start that we did, we probably would have been able to get through them and get back on the winning side. Now we don't have the luxury of having that time. I don't doubt we'll come out of it, but we need to now."
Including Saturday's game, the Flames have two games left against the Oilers and one with Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks.
The club believes regardless of the opposition, the onus is on them to play the game they are a capable of in order to qualify for the post-season.
"Our focus is ourselves, we're not thinking about our opposition," said Flames head coach Brent Sutter. "We know the things they're going to do and how they play. But our focus is what we're about as a team and what we need to do and how we need to play which will allow ourselves to have success.
"That's what has allowed our team to have success from the middle of December and we're going to continue to do that."