Flames bringin' Tebow-esque excitement

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:14 AM ET

CALGARY - The three-game winning streak was all well and good.

So too was the recent run that had the Calgary Flames picking up points in seven of their last eight outings.

Only Tim Tebow has been better of late.

Predictably, Jarome Iginla has returned to form to edge Brendan Morrison for player of the week, while Miikka Kiprusoff continues to roll along as the Flames best player.

Finally, there’s momentum and something to be excited about for Flames fans.

Following their annual face-plant for the first 20 games, the lads closed the gap on eighth place to a remarkable two points heading into Tuesday’s action against the Nashville Predators.

However, like Tebow, many worry this is where the magical run ends.

In Tebow’s case, it has plenty to do with the fact he throws a bit like a girl.

For the Flames, it appears the most daunting of schedules could be their undoing.

Either way, we’re about to find out a whole bunch about the Calgary Flames.

On Monday, the boys packed up their bags to start an adventure that has them playing 10 of their next 12 games on the road thanks to the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Six of those 10 are against teams that entered play last night in the top eight.

Ya know, like, good teams — not like the last six games that saw them grab points only from teams with little hope of making the playoffs.

All told, nine of their next 13 are against playoff teams.

“It’s a big push over the next little while as far as us needing to keep moving up,” said Flames coach Brent Sutter, whose squad faces a frustrated Tampa Bay Lightning team Thursday (5:30 p.m., Sportsnet Flames).

“Obviously, any time you play against top teams and want to move up you have to find ways to beat them. Actually, other than Vancouver, we’ve done a good job playing Nashville (1-2), Chicago (1-1) and Detroit (1-1) well. It’s not like we haven’t played them well. There are encouraging signs.”

As part of the club’s recent surge, goal scoring has not been a problem. While Iginla, Morrison, Olli Jokinen and Curtis Glencross have led the way, all but three Flames got at least one shot on goal last Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche.

Two nights earlier, only five Flames missed the net.

“Our confidence is growing — no question,” said Sutter, whose club — at 14-14-2 — sits at the .500 mark yet again.

“Look at the last couple games — the guys have really stayed with it and have not been phased by the score or the situation late in games. No question there are certainly a lot of positive signs, and we just have to build off of them.”

Doing that on the road is the ultimate test, especially against a slate of teams that includes four division leaders (the Chicago Blackhawks, the Minnesota Wild, the Boston Bruins and the Florida Panthers) as well as the Vancouver Canucks and the Detroit Red Wings.

Here’s when we found out how far the Flames have progressed.

So far this season the team is following a similar pattern to the one that saw the Flames climb back into the playoff hunt last year by beating up on lesser opponents only to struggle against the very teams you have to beat to make the post-season — playoff squads.

That cycle will have to be broken if the Flames have any hope at all of staying in a playoff race.

And given the road ahead now might be the best time of all to reverse that pattern.

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Eric Francis appears regularly as a panellist on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.


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