Opportunity knocks for Flames

Calgary Flames defenceman Mark Giordano (L-R), centre Olli Jokinen, right wing Jarome Iginla,...

Calgary Flames defenceman Mark Giordano (L-R), centre Olli Jokinen, right wing Jarome Iginla, defenceman Jay Bouwmeester and left wing Mike Cammalleri celebrate Cammalleri's goal against the Dallas Stars during the third period of their NHL hockey game in Dallas, Texas February 16, 2012. (REUTERS/Mike Stone)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:54 PM ET

LOS ANGELES - Win and the Calgary Flames are in.

That's how big of an opportunity they're facing with Saturday night's game against the Los Angeles Kings (8 p.m, CBC).

OK, it's not like a victory in the Hockey Night in Canada finale punches a ticket to the Stanley Cup playoffs. That likely will come down to the wire for the last couple of places.

But, a regulation-time victory over the Kings would mean a spot in the Western Conference's top eight for the Flames for the first time this season.

You bet it'll be brought up when they're in the final moments of preparation before puck drop at the Staples Center.

Head coach Brent Sutter made no bones about it, such a scenario was mentioned before the charges began to practice Friday afternoon in Los Angeles.

"It's something that should always be there, understanding where we're at," Sutter said. "It's not something I harp on, but it was brought up today. If we bring it (Saturday against the Kings) like we want, we'll give ourselves a chance to get where we want.

"It's a playoff game again," he added with a chuckle. "The all are."

To their credit, the Flames have been claiming points through almost all of the recent playoff-like affairs.

Since the 9-0 debacle of a loss in Boston back on Jan. 5, the Flames have cobbled together a 9-3-4 mark.

They've currently gone seven games without losing in regulation -- 4-0-3 -- to pull within a couple of points of both Phoenix and Los Angeles and vaulted over Dallas, Colorado and Minnesota.

The next task is to actually be among the West's elite eight. Then, stay among that group.

"I think everyone's aware of the standings, who's ahead of us and who's behind us and what the points are," winger Blake Comeau said. "The season's coming down to an end, there's twentysome games left and it's going by quickly, so everyone's aware of where we are.

"We want to get into a playoff spot, it's something we're striving for, but we want to get in and don't want to look back."

The Flames were actually tied for eighth spot one day this season, after the action of Dec. 27, but Nashville had a game in hand, so Calgary was officially in ninth.

The last time the Flames had possession of a spot in the top eight was through 73 games last season, on March 18, 2011, but they were on the way to falling out for good in the 2010-11 campaign.

Climbing back into that group would be a huge mental boost for the team, which has done a remarkable job of hanging in there, despite all the injuries which have taken away the forward depth.

"It is a battle and if you look at all the teams from Chicago down to Anaheim now, every game is such a big game," Sutter said. "And, we play all those teams, I think 14 or 15 more times. It's a lot of points on the board."

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak


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