The Calgary Flames are nearly in the playoffs, but they've also got their eyes on a division title.
The Flames can clinch a spot in the postseason on Thursday when they visit the Northwest Division-leading Minnesota Wild.
Calgary (41-29-10) is in seventh place in the Western Conference, three points ahead of eighth-place Nashville. The Flames can earn a postseason berth by earning one point in their final two games, or with a Vancouver loss.
Calgary is in third place in the Northwest, but trails the Wild (43-28-9) by just three points. Minnesota owns a two-point lead over Colorado in the division race.
The Flames and Wild both have one game remaining after Thursday. Calgary closes out the regular season on Saturday at Vancouver, while the Wild play at Colorado on Sunday.
Minnesota has already clinched a spot in the postseason.
"I don't think there was any doubt in any of our minds that we'd make the playoffs," Wild forward Brian Rolston said. "We're trying to stay on top of our division right now, that's our main focus."
|The Calgary Flames can clinch a playoff berth with a win tonight against the Minnesota Wild. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh)|
The Flames have won their last five games overall against the Wild and four of five in Minnesota. Calgary is 27-9-4 with four ties all-time against the Wild.
The Flames knocked Edmonton out of the playoff race on Tuesday with a 3-2 win. Owen Nolan scored the game-winner with 3:44 left for Calgary, which had been outscored 8-3 in losing its previous two games.
"In certain areas we'd like to have pushed back more than we did at times but we found a way to win the game and that's what it's about at this time of year, winning games in different ways," captain Jarome Iginla said. "After they got one we settled down on the bench and had a little bit of a push after and got the goal right back. It was great."
The Wild earned their playoff berth minutes before their last game, when Detroit beat Nashville on Sunday. But the news didn't slow them down, as they defeated Colorado 3-2 in overtime for their third straight win.
"I feel good with the way we're playing. I like the way we're playing," said coach Jacques Lemaire, who earned his 499th career coaching win. "I like the way the guys are playing for the team. I like that."
Marian Gaborik scored two goals Sunday, including the game-winner, and has a franchise-record 80 points for the Wild. Rolston also scored, giving him 30 goals for the third straight season.
"I like very much what we did in the third because when a team comes back from a two-goal deficit, they're on the run, they feel good and they feel that they'll win the game," said Lemaire, whose team blew a 2-0 lead going into the second. "You have to respond, and we did."
Niklas Backstrom made 24 saves and improved to 9-1-4 since taking over the starting job full time on Feb. 27.