Give Flames credit

Olli Jokinen celebrates a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Olli Jokinen celebrates a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:46 PM ET

Let’s give credit where it’s due.

The Calgary Flames climbed into a playoff spot for the first time this NHL season with so little fanfare.

They have put together an impressive 10-3-4 spree — yet when people talk about hot clubs, it’s the Anaheim Ducks mentioned most, or the Detroit Red Wings record-breaking home-ice winning streak.

Yet the Flames have defied all kinds of critics — and odds — to pull themselves into one heck of a race.

(Let’s not forget the 8-1-1 streak by the Phoenix Coyotes, too, if we’re going to mention unheralded tales of success.)

But, all it’s done for the Flames is put them in good stead among the mix of clubs fighting for the last few spots in the top eight.

Can they keep it up?

Only time will tell, but here are five other burning questions we have heading into this week’s action:

Can the big guns keep going?

To their credit, the Flames best players — as the cliche goes — have been their best players. Not only has goalie Miikka Kiprusoff been outstanding, but the top guns have come through offensively.

Yes, the bottom three lines must chip in a little more often, but the crew of Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen, Alex Tanguay and Michael Cammalleri have been pulling their way of late.

Over the last nine games, the Flames have scored 21 goals. Jokinen has netted six, Iginla has five, Cammalleri has four and Tanguay has two.

Those players have all kinds of pressure to perform and deserve credit for continuing to contribute.

Will the Flames keep burning the Oilers?

Admit it Flames fans, even if it’s not resulted in playoff trips and have helped the Edmonton Oilers select Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first overall in each of the last two drafts, it’s been fun watching the Flames absolutely own the Battle of Alberta for the past while.

Heading into Tuesday’s clash at the Saddledome, the Flames have won nine straight meetings, including all four this season, and taken 16 of the last 17 clashes.

Who knows? Maybe this is the day that streak ends. The Oilers have all kinds of young and speedy talent — we have to mention Jordan Eberle in here, too — so it’s not like a win is guaranteed for the Flames.

You can bet there will be a charge in the air at puck-drop.

Will Dome cooking taste great?

All those road games this season (33) have the Flames staring at a home-heavy schedule over the last six weeks. The real crush of Saddledome dates starts now.

The Flames have 15 home dates remaining, including nine of their next 12 outings.

So far, they’ve put together a respectable 16-8-2 mark in the Stampede City. If the Flames can actually improve on that winning percentage, starting with their four-game homestand, it would bode well for those playoff dreams.

Can they bite back against the Dogs?

The Flames have lost five straight meetings with the Phoenix Coyotes, including an overtime game nearly two weeks ago in the desert.

Right now, that game is the difference between the two clubs in the standings.

The secret against the Desert Dogs is a quick enough start to get the lead. If the Coyotes get ahead, they do an incredible job of shutting down the opposition, backstopped by goalie Mike Smith, who has had a renaissance season after struggling elsewhere in his NHL career.

Last year, the Flames struggled against teams which finished above the .500 mark. The Coyotes, who have three more games against the Flames, are among those clubs which were the difference between making and missing the playoffs.

What’s with the Eastern Conference struggles?

There are only three Western Conference teams without a .500 or better record against their East counterparts this season (well, .500 with the way the NHL keeps track). The Flames are one of those clubs with sub-par success against the Eastern Conference foes, with a 4-7-4 mark.

The Flames have three more games against teams from the other side of the continent — all at home, starting with Saturday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Flames have fared well against the Flyers in recent years, and it’s always an interesting game. After all, the Flyers boast the unique personality of Ilya Bryzgalov for a goalie, a big set of wingers and forwards and the up-and-coming star Claude Giroux.

Don’t miss this game.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak


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