Trick now is for Flames to stay in top eight

Calgary Flames' Mike Cammalleri celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Los Angeles...

Calgary Flames' Mike Cammalleri celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Los Angeles Kings during the third period of a 1-0 win in LaLaLand on Saturday night.

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:46 PM ET

Credit Brent Sutter for being succinct.

When asked following Monday’s practice how it felt to be sitting in eighth spot in the NHL’s Western Conference, therefore in a playoff position for the first time all season, the Calgary Flames head coach responded: “It’s a lot better sitting where we’re at today than it was a month ago.”

True, but the real test is where the Flames are sitting seven weeks from now, when the Stanley Cup chase begins. If the Flames are still in a playoff spot, then they’ll have something to crow about.

For now, they’re remaining reserved about finally climbing into a spot among the Western Conference’s elite eight thanks to Saturday night’s 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings, which vaulted them over the crew coached by former Flames boss Darryl Sutter.

“It’s back to business,” Flames captain Jarome Iginla said. “After the game, you enjoy the feeling of winning a four-point game, beating a team we’re trying to catch. But today, it’s back to business.

“We have a game (Tuesday), and the Kings play (the) Phoenix (Coyotes), so we’ve got to win so we can gain on one team, for sure. Otherwise, you’re losing ground.”

The Flames will try to strengthen their hold on a playoff spot with just over one-quarter of the season remaining when they play host to the Edmonton Oilers (7 p.m., Sportsnet West/Sportsnet 960) at the Saddledome in the latest installment of the Battle of Alberta.

Considering it’s an Oilers squad which is doomed to another season near the bottom of the standings and has lost five of six games, it does bode well for the Flames maintaining a spot in the top eight.

However, the Flames were as high as fifth place last season only to miss the playoffs, so they know plenty can happen before the campaign ends.

“It feels great to be in a playoff position today, but we’re still tied with L.A., even though they’re in ninth,” said Flames defenceman Mark Giordano. “As far as the other teams around us, Chicago is going well, Phoenix is going well, and those are the teams we have to keep pace with.

“We can’t be trying to hold off anybody. We have to catch teams ahead of us.”

And do it while being chased.

Right now, only the Oilers andt he Columbus Blue Jackets are pretty much done and dusted from playoff contention.

Sure, the Dallas Stars, the Colorado Avalanche and the Minnesota Wild have all be struggling for the past month or more, but they are all still within a few points of the Flames.

Plus the Anaheim Ducks are going strong enough to pull off another miracle finish from the depths, which they did last season.

“It’s nice to be in a playoff position,” said Flames defenceman Chris Butler, “But we have to maintain the same attitude we’ve had the past couple of months, with the goal to continue going up the standings and try and improve our position, wherever that may be.

“It’s good we’re in, but you have to stay in.”

That means not thinking about the out-of-town scores and just concentrating on the next game, which just happens to be against a club the Flames have won nine straight meetings.

“Those games are always fun to play,” Butler said. “When you’re in Edmonton, you see a lot of Calgary jerseys, and you see a lot of Edmonton fans here (at the Dome). It means a lot to the people, means a lot to the organizations … It’s a fun rivalry, and you always want to get the best of your opposition.

Added Sutter: “Every opponent we’re playing is going to be tough. Edmonton is our No. 1 rival, so they’re going to be ready to play. We’ve got to keep pushing forward here.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak


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