DENVER — Their hopes are slim, but their spirits are high.
In case proof was necessary, the games they played during Saturday’s practice at a facility in Westminster, Colo., sure didn’t indicate the Calgary Flames feeling the pressure of having to win their final three games of the season to have even the slightest chance at making the playoffs.
One drill in particular featured a shortened rink and a tag-style passing feature that meant teams could go from one-on-one to four-on-one in seconds.
The odd-man opportunities made for spectacular efforts from goalies Miikka Kiprusoff and Henrik Karlsson.
“It was a drill Cookie (assistant coach Rob Cookson) has done in the past. We hadn’t done it this year, and we didn’t do it last year,” said Flames coach Brent Sutter. “A little bit of having some fun with it.
“Fun for the guys watching the goalies. It was fun for me watching the goalies.”
They didn’t let any of the spectators down. And fun is part of the focus for the Flames as they try to win out in hopes the Chicago Blackhawks falter over the last week.
“The one thing the guys have been, they’ve been very focused,” Sutter said. “We know our situation. We know we certainly need to get help. But we also know that we need to win our games to do it, so our focus hasn’t changed that way.
“We know it’s not a great situation to be in, but we also know there’s still life there. We have to continue to focus in on that, and you never know what happens.”
First order of business
It took less than 40 minutes for Daymond Langkow to move from the fourth line to the first — and that’s where it appears he’ll start Sunday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche.
“You can’t say enough about players that know how to think the game the right way and are smart players and that are competitors the way he is,” said Sutter, who gradually increased Langkow’s load Friday night in his return from a long layoff while recovering from a fractured vertebrae in the neck.
“Things happen fairly quickly in a positive way.”
Mikael Backlund moved down the lineup as a result.
“Giving Daymond an opportunity to see all those different situations, it will be beneficial for Daymond, but it’ll be beneficial for our team, too,” Sutter said.
Day off for Glencross
Curtis Glencross skipped practice Saturday but should be fine for Sunday’s game.
“Just maintenance,” Sutter said. “I thought we’d give him the day off. He got hit with a shot (Friday) and we thought we’d give him a day off.
Another winger could come off the bench. LW Niklas Hagman practised with his teammates again, and, if all goes well, will be a game-time decision against the Avalanche.
“We’ll know (Sunday),” Sutter said. “We’ll see how he feels in the morning, and if he feels good, there’s a chance he’ll play.”