The Calgary Flames might be able to complete the Western Conference playoff field before the final week of the regular season even begins.
The Flames could have a chance to wrap up the West's eighth and final postseason berth when they visit the first-place Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.
The only team that can catch Calgary (42-25-10) for eighth place is Colorado, which plays earlier in the day against Minnesota. If the Avalanche lose to remain seven points back with four games remaining, that means the Flames would claim the last available playoff spot in the conference with a victory over Vancouver.
"We want to close it out. We want to earn our playoff spot," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who recorded his first hat trick of the season in Calgary's 4-2 win over the Wild on Thursday.
It was the fifth win in a row for the Flames and moved them within seven points of the Northwest Division-leading Canucks (47-23-7), who are three points ahead of second-place Minnesota.
The Canucks reached the 100-point plateau for the fourth time in franchise history and set a club record for victories in a season with a 4-2 win over Los Angeles on Thursday.
"It's something to look back on later," Vancouver forward Taylor Pyatt told the team's official Web site. "We're still pushing to win the division here and get home ice for first round of the playoffs. It's an exciting time of year and guys just want to get going in the playoffs."
While Vancouver goes for its second division title in three seasons, Calgary is looking to make the playoffs for a third straight season following a seven-year absence. If the Flames can't clinch on Saturday, they will have a chance to do it Tuesday when they return home from a four-game road trip to face Colorado.
The Flames are only 12-18-8 on the road, but have allowed just four goals while going perfect through three games on this trip. A victory Saturday would give the team its longest road winning streak since a six-game run from Dec. 16, 2003-Jan. 6, 2004.
"This is the time of year you want to be playing sharp," Calgary's Daymond Langkow said.
Vancouver has been just as sharp, winning six of seven and earning points in eight straight games.
Daniel Sedin had two goals in Thursday's victory and the Canucks scored on their only two power plays. They were outshot 34-22.
"It wasn't our best game, but we found a way to win," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "Our power play got us two goals and two points, that was the difference."
The Canucks, who are 9-0-2 at GM Place since Feb. 10, begin a three-game homestand on Saturday before closing the regular season with two road games.
Vancouver is 4-3-0 against Calgary this season, but has won eight of 11 in the series.
|Mar 31 '07||CGY 3 at VAN 2||K. Huselius|
|Feb 03 '07||VAN 3 at CGY 4||K. Huselius|
|Jan 02 '07||VAN 3 at CGY 2||A. Burrows|
|Dec 27 '06||CGY 5 at VAN 6 - OT||S. Salo|
|Dec 26 '06||VAN 3 at CGY 1||D. Sedin|
|Dec 14 '06||CGY 1 at VAN 3||H. Sedin|
|Dec 09 '06||VAN 3 at CGY 5||M. Lombardi|
|Nov 11 '06||CGY 3 at VAN 2||K. Huselius|