SUN Hockey Pool

Flames look to hit .500

Calgary Flames' Curtis Glencross (R) celebrates his goal with teammate Lee Stempniak during the...

Calgary Flames' Curtis Glencross (R) celebrates his goal with teammate Lee Stempniak during the third period of their NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche in Calgary, Alberta, December 8, 2011. (REUTERS/Todd Korol)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

Uncharted territory awaits the Calgary Flames.

With a Battle of Alberta on deck Saturday night at the Saddledome, as the Edmonton Oilers come to town, the Flames have an opportunity for a couple of firsts this season.

A victory would give them their first three-game win streak of the 2011-12 campaign -- more than two months into the year.

It would also put them over the .500 mark in points percentage for the first time since last season.

"Motivation for us is easy," said Flames veteran Brendan Morrison, who has six points in his last two games after sitting out a stretch as a healthy scratch. "We're still near the bottom of the conference. We're not in the thick of things playoff race-wise and that's where we want to be.

"And (Saturday) night, we're playing another team that's ahead of us in the standings -- and it's also a divisional game."

They've been here before, saying all the right things about climbing above that .500 mark and climbing the Western Conference standings.

Four cracks at creeping above it have passed, all failures.

With the Flames playing their best hockey of the season over the past seven games, going 5-1-1 in that span to bring their record back up to respectability, they will not be satisfied with another setback.

"We've kind of been teetering on the .500 edge for a while," Morrison said. "We've finally gotten there again, but let's be realistic here, .500 shouldn't be the ultimate goal. And it's not, so we've got a lot of work to do."

Recent history has shown they're willing to do that work.

Since an embarrassing loss to the Blue Jackets in Columbus late last month, the Flames have been giving themselves every opportunity to win with a better work ethic and more focus on playing head coach Brent Sutter's system.

It's starting to remind outsiders -- and some inside the room, too -- of the way the team finally came together in late December last season.

"There are some really good signs," Sutter said Friday, as his players worked out off the ice.

"I think Hartsie (associate coach Craig Hartsburg) said it best. He said in a game like (Thursday) night when you dominate a game like we did for two periods and you're down 1-0 ... at the start of the year, we maybe would not have won that game."

They pulled it off in a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche, and look to continue their climb out of 12th spot in the conference after waking up Friday morning three points out of the top eight.

"It's definitely going in the right direction. A lot more cohesiveness. We're getting timely goals," said Morrison, who set up a pair of them on the powerplay Thursday. "We're finding ways to get goals at key times and a bunch of different guys are contributing. That's what this team needs.

"We're not a good enough team to rely on one line or a couple of guys. We need everyone going every night."

It's the only way they will surpass the .500 mark Saturday night. And although it's a seemingly insignificant statistic, it's one that's often talked about by the players and coaching staff.

"We've worked hard to get back to this point and now we're right in the hunt. We're right close to the (playoff) pack now," said Sutter. "We need to continue to win games to get in there.

"As you go along, you can't be a .500 team and think you're gonna make playoffs. You've got to start building on it.

"We worked hard to get back to this point. We have to take that step now. We have to get above that line."

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane


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