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Round 2
Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Sunday, 01.20.2013 / 1:41 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Flames to start without two key forwards

CALGARY – The Calgary Flames are expected to start the season without two key offseason acquisitions.

Forwards Jiri Hudler and Roman Cervenka will both miss Calgary’s season opener.

Hudler, whose father passed away earlier this week, is attending to family matters in the Czech Republic. There is no scheduled return for his timetable. The 29-year-old was signed to a four-year, $16-million deal last July.

The 27-year-old Cervenka is out indefinitely because of anticoagulant medication he’s taking after the presence of a blood clot. While the clot is no longer an issue, Cervenka will see a hematology specialist before making his debut. When he’s deemed able to come off the medication, Cervenka will be cleared to skate.

When he does return, Cervenka will make his North American introduction after spending his entire career in Europe. The 5-foot-11 forward is expected to slot into a top-six role when he is cleared.

The team will also be without defenseman Anton Babchuk, who missed training camp with an injured shoulder.

Curtis GlencrossAlex TanguayJarome Iginla

Sven BaertschiMikael Backlund – Michael Cammalleri

Roman HorakMatt StajanLee Stempniak

Tim JackmanSteve BeginBlake Comeau

Mark GiordanoJay Bouwmeester

Chris ButlerDennis Wideman

Derek SmithCory Sarich

Miikka Kiprusoff

Leland Irving

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POSTED ON Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 2:48 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Canucks playing for top seed, Flames for pride

CALGARY -- It's pride versus the Presidents' Trophy when the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks collide at the Scotiabank Saddleomde Thursday.
 
While the Canucks staring down the League lead, the Flames are simply left to play out their remaining two games of the season.
 
But there is something left on the line for Calgary, according to coach Brent Sutter.
 
"There is, plain and simple, it is something you better have inside of you to have the pride to go out there for the front of the jersey and for our fans, for our ownership group, for the people that support this team so loyal and for themselves," Sutter said. "You shouldn't have to beg individuals to do that. You should have it internally inside you."
 
Alex Tanguay and David Moss may have already had their last opportunity to display that pride.
 
After missing practice earlier in the week, neither will skate in the game with the Canucks. With another game Saturday afternoon against the Anaheim Ducks, Sutter suggested the pair have already played their last games of the season.
 
"Neither of them are playing [tonight]," Sutter said. "Again, it’s day-to-day but you've got to assume that with it being less than 48 hours until the next game after tonight, if they're not playing tonight there's a chance neither one of them will be playing Saturday either."
 
Instead of Tanguay and Moss, the Flames will showcase Akim Aliu, who is set to make his National Hockey League debut 19 days shy of his 23rd birthday.
 
"It's unbelievable," Aliu said. "It's a dream come true. I'm really exited. Sometimes you think this day will never come, but when it does come it's that much more special."
 
The Canucks do not have any players making their debut, but there's still plenty to play for throughout the lineup.
 
Vancouver is tied with the New York Rangers heading into Game 81 with 109 points with home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs on the line. The Canucks are also just two points up on the St. Louis Blues for the Western Conference lead.

"It's hugely important," said Cory Schneider, who will start against the Flames. "You look at some of those teams and their home records, teams like St. Louis, Detroit, Nashville, Chicago, they're pretty unbeatable at home. If it comes down to a Game 7 in your building, that makes a huge difference.
 
"We still have something to play for. We're not taking anything lightly."
 
Byron Bitz, recalled yesterday to replace Zack Kassian, knows the importance of the two points.
 
"The team does have a lot of expectations and playoffs are right around the corner," he said. "It's an exciting time of year and I'm very happy to get a chance here."
 
Here are tonight's projected lineups:
 
FLAMES

Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - Jarome Iginla
Michael Cammalleri - Matt Stajan - Akim Aliu
Blake Comeau - Blair Jones - Lee Stempniak
Tom Kostopoulos - Lance Bouma - Tim Jackman
 
Chris Butler - Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano - Cory Sarich
Scott Hannan - Anton Babchuk
 
Miikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson

CANUCKS
Alexandre Burrows - Henrik Sedin - Maxim Lapierre
Mason Raymond - Ryan Kesler - David Booth
Chris Higgins - Samuel Pahlsson - Jannik Hansen
Andrew Ebbett - Manny Malhotra - Byron Bitz
 
Alexander Edler - Dan Hamhuis
Marc-Andre Gragnani - Christopher Tanev
Aaron Rome - Sami Salo
 
Cory Schneider
Roberto Luongo
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POSTED ON Friday, 03.30.2012 / 2:48 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

College-style elimination faces Flames, Avalanche

CALGARY -- The Western Conference playoff race has been nothing short of madness in March.
 
For a few teams, it's starting have the feel of the Frozen Four, too.
 
With the collective lives of the Colorado Avalanche and Calgary Flames on the line in Friday's meeting, the game has the feel of the collegiate-style one-and-done tournament format. A win keeps either club alive. A loss buries any hope of an extended season.
 
The concept is all too familiar to former college players in both locker rooms.
 
"It's kind of that scenario," said David Moss, who spent four years at the University of Michigan. "Right now we have to win our games and Colorado is in the same situation. It's pretty easy to see that if either of us lose a game here that's the end of it."
 
Michael Cammalleri, a Michigan teammate of Moss in 2001-02, felt the same.
 
"For the college guys it was like that," Cammalleri said. "Our NCAA experience is one and done. I guess it makes it more tournament-style that way, for sure."
 
Though it's Boston College, Minnesota, Union and Ferris State competing in the 2012 Frozen Four in Tampa Bay next week, the Colorado Avalanche feel as though they're a part of it already.
 
With 86 points and just three games remaining, the Avalanche can ill afford to come away with anything but six points, according to Chuck Kobasew.
 
"It's do-or-die for us," the Boston College alum said. "Both teams know they're in a tough situation either way and we have no choice but to win out from here."
 
Flames defenseman Chris Butler is hoping to help Calgary avoid the latter portion of Kobasew's assessment, something he wasn't able to do at the University of Denver.
 
"We never had a lot of success in college tournaments," he said. "We only made the tournament one year and we lost the first game to Wisconsin. I hope it's not a similar outcome."
 
The Flames, 11th in the Western Conference, must win all four of their remaining games to have a hope at the playoffs. They've accomplished that feat just twice through 78 games this season -- meaning they'll be facing four consecutive elimination games starting with Friday's contest against Colorado.
 
"It's more or less a do-or-die situation," Butler said. "We know that realistically we need to win every game, but you can't look at it as you have to string four games together because that's extremely difficult in the League.
 
"We have four one-game series that we need to win. Our mindset is one at a time."
 
Any losses along the way for either club will leave both teams out in the cold, on the outside looking in when the Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway.
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POSTED ON Friday, 03.30.2012 / 2:34 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Avalanche rookie Barrie ready for key role vs. Flames

CALGARY -- Tyson Barrie is getting some serious on-the-job training.
 
The 20-year-old Colorado Avalanche defenseman will suit up for just his eighth game of the season Friday night against the Calgary Flames in a do-or-die game that will either end or prolong the hopes of making the playoffs in a wild Western Conference race.
 
"It's pretty crazy," said Barrie, who is still searching for his first NHL point. "It's definitely exciting. I haven't played too many games, but I'm feeling more comfortable as we go. It's exciting stuff."
 
Avalanche coach Joe Sacco is hoping Barrie can provide some punch to an offense that has produced just eight goals in its last five games. Four of those contests have been losses. He's opted to insert Barrie to jump start production in place of Ryan Wilson.
 
"He's really played on his toes when he's been in our lineup," Sacco said. "He's been a difference-maker creating a lot of scoring chances for our team, and I'll expect the same thing here tonight. Just give us some good energy and help us offensively from the back end."
 
In his first professional season after spending four years with the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL, Barrie could be settling in when Colorado needs the rookie the most.
 
"It's cool, but I'm settling down a little bit," Barrie said. "I know the first few games I couldn't even stickhandle I was so nervous. Now I'm settling in and feel good.
 
"It is tough, but all the guys are good. They keep me loose in the room. My d-partner Shane O'Brien, he's real good at that stuff. He keeps me loose. He's a great guy and he makes it easy for me out there."
 
The confines of the Scotiabank Saddledome have been kind to Barrie. As a member of the Rockets, Barrie's work in Calgary's rink helped earn a WHL Championship.
 
"We played the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL final and we beat them," Barrie said. "I've played here a few times and I have some great memories in this barn."
 
Barrie is hoping to help the Avalanche build a few more.
 
Here's tonight's projected lineup:
 
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Steve Downy
Jamie McGinn - Paul Stastny - David Jones
Peter Mueller - Matt Duchene - Mark Olver
Cody McLeod - Jay McClemment - Milan Hejduk
 
Matt Hunwick - Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne
Shane O'Brien - Tyson Barrie
 
Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere
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POSTED ON Friday, 03.30.2012 / 1:44 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flames will have Sarich for must-win against Avs

CALGARY -- In what Brent Sutter called the Calgary Flames' most important game of the season to date, the coach will have one of his most veteran defenders back in the lineup Friday night.
 
Cory Sarich, who missed four games with an upper-body injury after a collision with David Jones of the Colorado Avalanche, will return to the lineup against the same team he last played against.
 
"I'm feeling really good," Sarich said. "The last three days I've felt like myself. I've felt normal. Skates have been normal. I'm excited to go out there and play."
 
With the Flames currently sitting 11th in a wild Western Conference race and their season hanging in the balance, Sutter is happy to have Sarich at his disposal.
 
"It's huge," Sutter said. "The way Cory had been playing, taking a presence like that out of your back end has definitely affected us in certain areas, so it's nice to have him back in our lineup."
 
The magnitude of the game isn't lost on Sarich, who watched his team win just one game in his absence, pushing Calgary's season to the brink.
 
"They've all been important here the last who knows how long," he said. "It makes it easy for myself to get up for this game, and you just try to go out there and fit right in."
 
In order to accommodate Sarich, the club had to return defenseman Clay Wilson to the Abbotsford Heat of the American Hockey League. Wilson was up on an emergency basis to fill in for Sarich.
 
Here's the projected lineup tonight for the Flames:

Alex Tanguay - Michael Cammalleri - Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - David Moss
Lee Stempniak - Matt Stajan - Blake Comeau
Tom Kostopoulos - Blair Jones - Tim Jackman
 
Chris Butler - Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
Anton Babchuk - Cory Sarich
 
Miikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson
 
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 03.28.2012 / 3:30 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Sutter vs. Sutter takes back seat to playoff race

CALGARY -- With both the Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames fighting for their respective playoff lives, the brothers become a mere footnote.
 
Though Darryl Sutter is manning the Kings' bench opposite Brent Sutter's Flames, the siblings aren't the focal point with both clubs just a point apart in the highly-contested Western Conference playoff chase.
 
"They're intense, they're physical, they're brothers," Flames captain Jarome Iginla said. "Now it's beyond that. The season is coming down to this. We've played 77 games up to now. This is a very, very important game. No one has even talked about Darryl being on the other side. This is just about beating the Kings tonight and jumping them in the standings."
 
Los Angeles has a one-point advantage over Calgary and holds a game at hand. A win for either team significantly increases their chances in surviving the wild West playoff hunt.
 
"This is just about winning and trying to get into the playoffs and trying to jump them in the standings," Iginla said. "It's nothing personal. This is just about the game and us working to get a win."
 
The contest is as much a must-win as it can get without mathematically eliminating either team. That fact isn't lost on Kings defenseman Drew Doughty.
 
"I think we obviously want to win that game for Darryl because it's the battle of the brothers, but we're looking at it as a must-win game," he said. "We're battling for a playoff spot right now, and that's all that matters."
 
Meaning the Sutter brothers will have to take a back seat with a critical two points on the line for both the Kings and Flames.
 
"It is what it is and we understand that, but that being said, they're fighting for the same thing we want and that's the magnitude of the game," Brent said.
 
"This is Kings and Flames. It's not about Darryl and I at all. Neither of us looks at it that way and never have."
 
Even though one Sutter has the opportunity to put the other's playoff chances on life support.
 
 
 
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 03.28.2012 / 3:10 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Kings focused on regaining playoff seed with win

CALGARY -- The Los Angeles Kings are well aware of their position in the Western Conference playoff race.
 
But they're not willing to look behind them when they face the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome -- a team the Kings hold a one-point advantage over with a game at hand in the wild West.
 
"We're fully aware of that," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "We're not too worried about where they are. We just have to worry about ourselves. No matter who we're playing, we have to win every night at this point of the season. Tonight's pretty much a four-point game. It's a must-win game."
 
Anze Kopitar couldn't disagree with Doughty.
 
"It's not just the damage we can do, it can set ourselves up for a good finish," he said. "It's obviously a big game for both clubs. It's going to be an emotional, high intensity game."
 
Coach Darryl Sutter isn't worried so much about the team across the ice as earning the victory and the two points that come with it.
 
"It's two points," Sutter said. "Again, it's really important for everybody. There's the top teams, then there's the teams that have a chance of winning a division, then there's a bunch of guys fighting for seventh and eighth place. Either you're seventh or eighth, or you're not. It's pretty simple."
 
Though the Flames are nipping at their heels, Kopitar said there is no extra motivation to all but bury the Flames by handing them a loss this late in the season.
 
"This time of the year, you really don't need it," he said. "Every game is like a playoff game. It's obviously really nice if you can separate yourself from the other teams, and that's what we're trying to do tonight."
 
Doughty hopes the Kings can show a little more.
 
"There's no doubt in our minds that we're a better team than them and we just have to show that," he said. "We have to come out hard in the first period, take it to them and let them know we're going to be the hardest-working team out there."
 
And if they're successful, the ninth-place Kings will find themselves back in a playoff position.

Here's the projected lineup for the Kings:
 
Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dwight King - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan
 
Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene
 
Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
 
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 03.28.2012 / 2:50 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flames sticking to motto: 'Every game matters'

CALGARY -- The Calgary Flames have preached their season-long motto, "Every game matters."
 
With five games remaining, the anthem has never held truer for the 11th-place Flames. Calgary currently sits two points behind the Phoenix Coyotes, the current residents of the eighth and final berth in the Western Conference's playoff picture.
 
But Calgary isn't looking at the big picture when it comes down to their final five games. With the Los Angeles Kings in town -- another team they're trying to chase down -- the Flames are taking a day-by-day approach to extend their season.
 
"You just have to take it one day at a time," Matt Stajan said. "Today's the game we're focused on. This is fun. We've got to win today to keep this going. We know where we're at. We put ourselves in this position."
 
Forgive the Flames if they sound like a broken record. The club has been preaching the motto for the last half-dozen games. It's been true throughout.
 
"The schedule is winding down and these games are massive with the standings situation," coach Brent Sutter said. "Tonight now becomes the biggest game of the season. When it's over, the next one will."
 
Which makes every game a must, according to captain Jarome Iginla.
 
"For us, we need to have this one," Iginla said. "We needed our last one. We go in with the same mindset. We play, we play hard, and we play confident.
 
"A lot of people have written us off, but from our point of view it's just about this game. If we get this one, a lot of pressure shifts to other teams and we just try to claw back in and keep going."
 
Winning Monday over the Dallas Stars -- another opponent in reach -- to snap a five-game losing streak, Calgary hopes to build on a newfound momentum.
 
"You try to get your emotional level there every night," Stajan said. "It doesn't matter what point of the year you're at. You can't lose. You have to be ready to go this time of year."
 
Because if they're not, the Flames will find themselves further on the outs when it comes to the chase in the wild West.
 
Here's the projected lineup for the Flames:
 
Alex Tanguay - Michael Cammalleri - Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - David Moss
Lee Stempniak - Matt Stajan - Blake Comeau
Tom Kostopoulos - Blair Jones - Tim Jackman
 
Chris Butler - Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
Anton Babchuk - Clay Wilson
 
Miikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.26.2012 / 3:48 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Dallas' playoff fate is in the Stars

CALGARY -- The fate of the Dallas Stars lies within.
 
The fate of the Calgary Flames could lie in the Stars, too. A Dallas win over the Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Monday night would all but put an end to the playoff aspirations in Calgary.
 
Stars forward Eric Nystrom is well aware of that.
 
"We know we have a chance to put a team that's competing with us out of the picture -- or almost out of the picture," Nystrom said. "It's huge. We're battling for our lives just like they are. You just have to win hockey games."
 
The Stars currently hold down top spot in the Pacific Division, but are just four points up on the 11th place Flames with the Phoenix Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche scattered in between.
 
"We know what the standings are, we know what our position is, we know what we're trying to accomplish," Sheldon Souray said. "We'll take it one game at a time, and if it means going through Calgary and having one less team in there, perfect. Every night we have our work cut out for us, but obviously the fewer teams in there the better our chances are."
 
But a win over Calgary isn't all about ending the Flames hopes, according to Jamie Benn.
 
"We know what we can do, but the biggest picture is the two points and that's what we're going for," he said. "We have to keep climbing, keep playing our game, and hopefully have a strong push for the playoffs."
 
A strong push from here on out is critical if the Stars hope to have success given the proximity of how teams are situated.
 
"We're sitting in a position where everything is so ridiculously tight," Steve Ott said. "Their life is on their line. Our life is on our line as well. There are only so many games and so many points left in the season. The tightness is only going to continue to go until Game 82.
 
"If we continue to get points we'll figure it out by the end of the standings. It puts us in control of our own destiny."
 
It's something Stars coach Glen Gulutzan has been preaching to his club.
 
"We've got to help ourselves," Gulutzan said. "Anytime you start worrying about those other teams they keep winning. We've really had to look internally in our group to make sure we get points. Truthfully in our locker room all we're talking about is getting points. We've got to get points in every game we play. We can't look around and watch scoreboards."
 
It boils down to simple math to Nystrom.
 
"If you win, you're in," he said. "That's the way it works the whole year. It's no different right now. If we win games we're going to be in the playoffs."
 
And if the team happens to dismiss a few opponents along the way?
 
"It's nothing personal," said Nystrom, a former member of the Flames. "This is my team. I want us to make it. That's just an opponent that's standing in our way. It's nothing personal against them. I want my team to make it."
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POSTED ON Monday, 03.26.2012 / 3:12 PM

By Aaron Vickers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flames focused on winning out

CALGARY -- The playoff fate of the Calgary Flames is simple -- win out and get in.
 
Trailing the eighth and final playoff spot by three points with six games remaining coupled with having to leapfrog three teams, the 11th place Flames have set their sights on winning their remaining games in order to extend their season.
 
But the Flames can't win six if they don't first win one.
 
"We know we pretty much have to run the table, but it's with one game," captain Jarome Iginla said. "As far as the way we're thinking positively, we've been in a drought, but the tide will turn and we all have to approach it that it'll be tonight."
 
The Flames host the Dallas Stars, a team that took two points away from Calgary in the first of a home-and-home series Saturday. Another loss against the Stars puts the playoffs all but out of reach.
 
"The focus is to win tonight," Matt Stajan said. "If we don't win tonight, nothing else matters. That's our focus. We've got to be ready to go and treat it like Game 7 and go from there. The next game will be a Game 7, but you can't look past tonight."
 
A favorable schedule, Calgary will play the majority of their remaining games at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
 
"We've got six games left," winger Curtis Glencross said. "We're not out of it yet. We have five home games and we have to take advantage of it."
 
Iginla agreed.
 
"We have these games at home and we have this week at home," Iginla said. "It starts with tonight. We've got a shot, but we've got to win our own games. No matter how much help we get, we have to win our own games, and that's what our focus has to be."
 
Winning six straight is a daunting task for the Flames, whose season-high five-game winning streak in early March has given way to a five-game skid. Though they've earned points in three of their five losses, Calgary hasn't seen the win column since March 15.
 
“These last five games, we've went into them knowing how big each game is, we know where the standings are, and they haven't turned out well for us, obviously," Iginla said. "Now we just go play. As far as squeezing sticks, teams run into tough stretches where you have a hard time scoring goals. It turns. We need it to turn now. We know the time is running out and we need to get ourselves on a roll. We think it's going to turn."
 
It just has to start with one.
 
"The best way is to win one hockey game and we'll see what happens from there," Tim Jackman said. "All of a sudden you win two. Then you win three.
 
"We believe we can do this. We have the team. We just have to win one game and we'll take things from there."
 
Because if they can't, the Flames will find themselves watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third consecutive year.
 
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I was in there icing my face as she was trying to push a baby out.

— Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf on going to the hospital with a facial laceration while his wife was in labor following Game 1 on Wednesday