Burning Questions for Flames

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:57 PM ET

CALGARY - On the road again.

The Calgary Flames took off Monday for San Jose, with the hopes of improving their record and moving into a playoff position by the end of the week.

But plenty of opposition stands in their way.

The San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers are on deck this week and all three of them would love to take a bite out of the Flames’ playoff hopes.

Here are a handful of burning questions that face the Flames this week ...

Whose line is it, anyway?

With Michael Cammalleri’s history alongside Jarome Iginla, you can’t blame people for wondering if he might be a good fit with the captain again. But another camp is wondering why head coach Brent Sutter plucked Iginla from the Olli Jokinen and Curtis Glencross combination so quickly against the Kings last week.

Iginla has been at his best in all areas of the ice while playing with that more defensively sound duo, and there’s a risk he may resort to old habits if he ends up playing with Cammalleri full-time.

Glencross seems to have his nose a little out of joint with the addition of Iginla’s former sniping partner — which came at the expense of Rene Bourque, who happened to be Glencross’ road roommate of nearly four years and best friend on the team — and that could also pose some chemistry problems for the Flames in the coming days.

Sutter is going to earn every penny of his salary as he attempts to balance his lines and personalities for a playoff push.

Where in the world is Alex Tanguay?

Still no public diagnosis, and word has it the pass-happy winger doesn’t even know himself what he’s dealing with.

Most have assumed he’s showing concussion symptoms and that the team is afraid to put that in print.

But there are some team insiders who suggest all kinds of tests are being done to figure out what it is that has Tanguay feeling so bad these days.

It may be a health issue and not an actual injury keeping the dynamic setup man from bolstering the Flames’ offensive depth.

Everyone is hoping doctors figure it out quickly, because they could use his skills right now.

Who won the trade?

Cammalleri scored in his first game as a Flame, while Bourque went without a point in his debut with the Montreal Canadiens on the weekend.

But the deal may come down to more than who comes away with more points at the end of the season.

The Flames stuck themselves with more of a cap crunch for the remainder of the year, and have a large salary to work with for another pair of seasons in Cammalleri.

But they’re OK with that if it means making the playoffs after a two-year drought.

But giving up a second-round pick next spring and a prospect — Patrick Holland — who appears to be improving every year means anything less than a playoff berth adds to the idea the Flames come away as the loser in the blockbuster swap.

Can the Flames string some wins together outside the Dome?

Eight of the team’s next 13 games area away from the Saddledome, and things haven’t been real pleasant outside of the friendly confines of their home rink lately. The post-Christmas road trip was abysmal, with the Flames going 1-4-1 and finishing with their most embarrassing loss of the year (no one will soon forget the 9-0 thrashing at the hands of the Bruins) in Boston.

They responded well with wins in three of their four home games but aren’t facing easy competition this week in the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings before heading north to battle the Edmonton Oilers. After a three-game home stand they’ll head back out to visit the Anaheim Ducks, Sharks and Phoenix Coyotes.

If they can’t win on the road, they won’t make the playoffs.

Is the schedule-maker for real?

Playing 18 of their final 36 games — yes, that’s exactly half of them — against Pacific Division opponents seems a little extreme.

Of all the quirks in the schedule (dropping a visit to Ottawa into a six-ame road swing through places like Columbus, New York, Nashville, Washington and Boston among the most odd) this crunch down the stretch might be the most interesting.

Having a conference-heavy schedule over the last half of the season is a good idea, but making it so one-dimensional in terms of who the Flames will face just doesn’t seem right.

On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane


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