SUN Hockey Pool

Flames are looking down the precipice

Miikka Kiprusoff, of the Calgary Flames, skates off the ice after a 4-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks...

Miikka Kiprusoff, of the Calgary Flames, skates off the ice after a 4-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in NHL action at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Wednesday March 30, 2011. (Photo by LYLE ASPINALL/Calgary Sun)

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:28 PM ET

You can expect plenty of 'Let's Go Flames!' chants in Wednesday's installment of the Battle of Alberta at the Saddledome.

Truth is, 'Let's Go Blues!' or

'Let's Go Sharks!” would be just as appropriate.

While the Flames need to top the provincial rival Edmonton Oilers to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, they'll also be rooting for the St. Louis Blues to beat the eighth-place Chicago Blackhawks and the San Jose Sharks to silence the seventh-place Anaheim Ducks.

If the Blackhawks and Ducks both win Wednesday, the Flames are officially eliminated.

“It's been sort of the same story, I guess, for the past couple weeks,” said Flames defenceman Mark Giordano after Wednesday's morning skate. “But same thing tonight — we've gotta win and, hopefully, we get a little help.”

The Flames have been scoreboard-watching for weeks now, and they've been getting mixed results.

Although the Montreal Canadiens beat the Blackhawks 2-1 in Tuesday's overtime thriller, the defending Stanley Cup champs still benefited from a single point. To make matters worse, the Dallas Stars blanked the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-0 to join the Flames in a tie for ninth place.

“It's tough having your destiny in the fate of other people,” admitted Flames winger Tom Kostopoulos. “We've gotta win our games. We've gotta win tonight and go from there, but it's tough knowing that you've gotta depend on other people losing some games.”

As several Flames were reminded after Wednesday's morning skate, the last Battle of Alberta was a wild one.

The Oilers stormed to a 4-1 lead in the March 26 showdown at Rexall Place and a few chirpy skaters were even wishing the Flames a delightful summer when Brent Sutter's squad erased the deficit and clawed out a 5-4 shootout win.

Consider that a lesson learned for an inexperienced, injury-depleted Oilers squad that will be brimming with confidence after back-to-back wins over the President's Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks.

“They played hard the last game we played in Edmonton against them, too, and we're going to expect the same thing tonight,” said Flames winger Curtis Glencross. “They're a confident team. They've won their last two games against Vancouver, the best team in the league, and obviously we've all seen that and we don't want to play the same style hockey that Vancouver played against them the last couple games.

“I think Vancouver went in the last couple of games and didn't play a real physical game and didn't play the way they usually play. At the same time, the Oilers are playing hard and they've got nothing to lose.”

Something to gain, though.

Relative unknowns such as Oilers rookies Chris VandeVelde and Jeff Petry could become instant heroes in Edmonton if they can help eliminate the arch-rival Flames from the Western Conference playoff race.

“I've been in that position, too, before, where you're trying to cause some grief for some teams. Hey, that's what you do as a hockey player — you play your hardest,” said Flames rearguard Cory Sarich. “It's fun to knock guys off so I understand the position they're in and we've got to make sure we're ready to go.”

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca


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