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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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Posted On Monday, 03.26.2012 / 2:54 PM

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

Stars will be without services of 'warrior' Dvorak

CALGARY -- The Dallas Stars will be without veteran winger Radek Dvorak as the club enters the back-end of a home-and-home series with the Calgary Flames.
 
Dvorak, who missed three games in early March before returning for three, is battling ankle issues that will keep him out of the contest.
 
"What a warrior," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "Seventeen years in this League and getting shot up every night in the ankle to get through. He had some aggravation in the last game, so if we sit him here, that's four days."
 
Dvorak could return to the lineup as quickly as Wednesday in Edmonton, Gulutzan said.
 
"Maybe he can be ready for Edmonton," he said. "If not, we can go another two more and get a healthier player. Sixty-five percent when you have healthy bodies, it's easier to put a guy in that’s 100 and try to get Devo to 80."

Either Tom Wandell or Ryan Garbutt will draw into the lineup in Dvorak's absence.

Gulutzan is pleased with the impression Dvorak has left on his team.
 
"He's showing these guys what it takes to be a pro in the NHL," Gulutzan said. "I can't say enough about Dvorak. We have a young Czech kid, Tomas Vincour, who has matured probably five years from just the six months he spent with Devo. What a pro. He's done everything you want of a veteran guy for mentorship for young players. He's an invaluable guy for our locker room."
 
Dvorak isn't the only player who may make an appearance against the Oilers.
 
The Stars could also have college signing Reilly Smith on the ice as soon as Edmonton as well. Dallas signed the 20-year-old Sunday.
 
"He's got to do immigration, so I don't know how long that takes," Gulutzan said. "(Edmonton) is a possibility depending on how we're playing. Right now, the focus is on the group, not any individual. We want to make sure if we put him in, it's the right time and place to do it."
 
Smith, who is with the team in Calgary, had 30 goals and 48 points in 39 games with Miami University (Ohio) this season and was originally selected by the Stars in the third round (No. 69) in 2009.

Here's the projected lineup for the Stars:

Loui Eriksson - Mike Ribeiro - Michael Ryder
Brenden Morrow - Jamie Benn - Steve Ott
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Tom Wandell/Ryan Garbutt
Jake Dowell - Tom Wandell - Adam Burish
 
Sheldon Souray - Stephane Robidas
Trevor Daley - Adam Pardy
Philip Larsen - Alex Goligoski
 
Kari Lehtonen
Richard Bachman
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Posted On Monday, 03.26.2012 / 1:54 PM

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

Sarich remains out for back end of home-and-home

CALGARY -- In a game that will rival playoff intensity, the Calgary Flames will be missing one of their most battle-tested blueliners.
 
The Flames will not have veteran defenseman Cory Sarich in the lineup for the game. He has missed the last two games after suffering an upper-body injury in a big collision with David Jones of the Colorado Avalanche.
 
"He's not available for us tonight," coach Brent Sutter confirmed after Calgary's morning skate.
 
Tim Jackman on the other hand, is.
 
Jackman, a healthy scratch for Calgary's Saturday afternoon tilt against the Stars, is ready to go in what is certain to be a playoff atmosphere with the Flames clinging to their playoff hopes.

"I'm not 100 percent sure yet," Jackman said. "We'll wait and see."
 
The rugged winger is hoping to be a part of the festivities after missing the first half of the home-and-home series.
 
"Obviously I wanted to be in there in that game," Jackman said. "You can tell it was going to be an intense game. Tonight will be the same way."
 
The Flames do expect Olli Jokinen to be in the lineup tonight. Jokinen was noticeably absent from the team's morning skate.
 
"It's a maintenance morning for him," Sutter said. "We just wanted him to be ready for tonight."
 
Jokinen is second on the Flames in scoring with 58 points, but has been held scoreless in his last seven games.
 
Here is the projected lineup for the Flames:

Alex Tanguay - Michael Cammalleri - Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - David Moss
Blake Comeau - Matt Stajan - Lee Stempniak
Tim Jackman - Blair Jones - Tom Kostopoulos
 
Chris Butler - Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
Clay Wilson - Anton Babchuk
 
Miikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson
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Posted On Sunday, 03.18.2012 / 2:27 PM

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

Blue Jackets playing spoiler role in Calgary

CALGARY – Though their playoff hopes are dashed, the Columbus Blue Jackets can put a dent in the postseason aspirations of another team Sunday night.
 
The Blue Jackets are set to square off against the Calgary Flames, who currently hold down the 11th spot in the Western Conference. The Flames sit just two points back of the eighth-place San Jose Sharks.
 
With a win, the Blue Jackets will not only halt a four-game losing skid extended Saturday night by a 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, but can also damper the hopes of a Calgary club that is coming off a 3-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers Friday.
 
To be successful, Columbus will need a strong effort from their top line of RJ Umberger, Derick Brassard and Rick Nash. The trio has failed to find the score sheet during their losing skid, with Nash, the Columbus captain, failing to record a point in six straight. 
 
Projected lineup

R.J. UmbergerDerick BrassardRick Nash
Vinny ProspalMark LetestuCam Atkinson
Colton GilliesRyan JohansenDerek Dorsett
Ryan RussellDarryl BoyceJared Boll
 
Jack JohnsonJames Wisniewski
Aaron JohnsonNikita Nikitin
John Moore – Bret Lebda
 
Steve Mason
Curtis Sanford
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Posted On Sunday, 03.18.2012 / 2:23 PM

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

Flames control their playoff destiny

CALGARY – Whether or not the Calgary Flames make the playoffs is up to them.
 
Currently on the outside looking in at the Western Conference playoff picture, the Flames have five of their remaining 10 games against teams they are chasing, or chasing away, in the race.
 
And with little help on the out of town scoreboard of late, Calgary is more than happy to handle the dirty work.
 
“We have to worry about ourselves in here,” Curtis Glencross said. “You’re watching every night, you’re watching to see what’s going on around the league. The ultimate goal at the end of the night is we come in here and do our part and that’s all we can ask for.
 
“We’ve got to go one period and one game at a time.”
 
The Flames will see both the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars twice before the season closes and will go head-to-head with the Los Angeles Kings once. All three teams currently sit ahead of Calgary in the standings, though a win by the Flames over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night at Scotiabank Saddledome can change all that.
 
In the jumbled playoff picture the Flames, currently 11th in the West, trail the Phoenix Coyotes by one point, while two points separate Calgary from the Kings and San Jose Sharks. The difference between the club and both Colorado and Dallas sits at three. 
 
“We can wake up tomorrow morning and the standings will be completely different and then the next day wake up again and they’ll be completely different again,” coach Brent Sutter said. “Worry about yourselves and take care of yourselves – it’s what you can control. If you’re doing what you need to do, you’ll get to where you need to get to.”
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Posted On Sunday, 03.18.2012 / 2:13 PM

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

Flames getting healthier with Stempniak return

CALGARY – The return of forward Lee Stempniak has allowed Calgary Flames coach Brent Sutter to shuffle the deck.
 
Missing 21 consecutive games with an ankle injury, Stempniak is set to return to the Flames in the midst of their playoff push Sunday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, skating alongside David Moss and Blake Comeau.
 
“For me to come in, I’m excited,” Stempniak said. “I can’t wait to get back and I think it’s a great way to jump into it.
 
“It’s tough being out. The hardest part is mentally, knowing you can’t be out there and being patient and doing all the little things right to make sure you get back on time. I think emotionally, you’re really excited to be back. You want to be in there and make a difference when you can.”
 
The shake-up moves Moss back to center, a position he’s rarely played since returning from his own injury earlier in the month.
 
“Wherever (Sutter) wants me to play,” Moss said. “It might not last. Last game I was playing left wing, center, right wing so tonight it’s the middle and I’m looking forward to it.”
 
The line gives Sutter another trio that he can be comfortable with in all situations as the Flames look to make ground in a difficult Western Conference playoff chase.
 
“It gives you another line that you can put together that has some experience and give us a little size there with Mosser moving to center,” Sutter said.
 
With Stempniak returning to the lineup and Lance Bouma (upper-body) and Tim Jackman (shoulder) nearing return, there is light at the end of the tunnel for Calgary’s sick bay – currently inhabited by seven players.
 
“We get one guy back so it’s encouraging,” Sutter said. “It’s an encouraging day, just being able to slowly get through this and get this guys back that can provide us with some experience.”
 
Projected lineup

Alex TanguayMatt StajanJarome Iginla
Curtis GlencrossOlli JokinenTom Kostopoulos
Lee StempniakDavid MossBlake Comeau
Greg NemiszRoman HorakGuillaume Desbiens
 
Jay BouwmeesterDerek Smith
Mark GiordanoScott Hannan
Cory SarichAnton Babchuk
 
Miikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson
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Posted On Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 2:36 PM

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

Aucoin, Vrbata are question marks for Coyotes

CALGARY -- The Phoenix Coyotes could be without a pair of important pieces to their playoff puzzle in the second of back-to-back games against the Calgary Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome Thursday.
 
Both Adrian Aucoin and Radim Vrbata are questionable for the game, an important contest in the Western Conference playoff picture. The Coyotes are currently seventh in the West and hold a three-point advantage over the Flames at 81.
 
Vrbata missed the 5-4 victory over Vancouver Wednesday due to illness and is considered day-to-day by the club.
 
Aucoin did suit up against the Canucks, but did not finish the game, which could pave the way for either Michael Stone or Derek Morris to return to the lineup. Stone was a healthy scratch for the Coyotes, while Morris hasn’t played since Feb. 11 due to personal reasons.
 
Either could play in front of goaltender Mike Smith, who is expected to start against Calgary. Smith has started 13 of the previous 14 games for the Coyotes.
 
Here's the projected lineup for the Coyotes:

Ray Whitney - Antoine Vermette - Gilbert Brule
Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Lauri Korpikoski
Mikkel Boedker - Marc-Antoine Pouliot - Paul Bissonnette
 
Keith Yandle - David Schlemko
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival
Rostislav Klesla - Michael Stone
 
Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera
 
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