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Flames players keeping close watch on competition in final playoff push

by AARON VICKERS @aavickers /

Troy Brouwer has his morning routine down to a science.  

 Get up.

 Start the coffee.

 Wake the kids.

 And check the standings.

 Yep, it's that time.

 As in, there's no avoiding the scoreboard at this stage of the season.

"It's everywhere around you," Brouwer said Thursday. "When you turn the TV on it's usually sports. When you come to the rink its Sportsnet or TSN on.

"There's no not paying attention to it.

"It's always around you."

Justifiably so.

The Flames have worked themselves into a position where scoreboards and standings dominate the discussion. They do, after all, hold the Western Conference's second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a 3-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday.

Video: Tkachuk, Elliott shine in 3-1 win against Flyers

Of course, the Los Angeles Kings have three games in hand and trail by just a single point, but the schedule now allows Calgary to control their own fate.

The two teams will meet four times - including three in Calgary - before the regular season ends.

It puts the Flames in control of their own destiny.

Just how they want it.

"If you were to ask us at the start of the year, especially where we were 10-15 games in, if this is where we'd be and give ourselves a chance to play for a playoff spot we'd take it," forward Kris Versteeg said.

"We have a lot of teams that are ahead of us coming down the stretch, or right behind us. We need to beat those teams, and especially L.A.

"That team has a lot of winning pedigree and we know that. We're going to have to be more desperate when we play them and each and every team.

"We know that." 

The Kings will burn one of their games-in-hand Thursday when they exit their five-day break with a meeting against the Arizona Coyotes. A win would leapfrog them back ahead of Calgary.

Flames captain Mark Giordao will be watching.

But that's nothing new.

"You're watching every night," Giordano said. "Tonight LA and Edmonton both play and you'll watch teams that are around you in your division.

"Yep … scoreboard watching.

"I think it's important, too, to stay in it and get into that spot as often as possible. I think games in hand, they're tough but we play each other enough that we can make up that. We have a lot of head-to-heads coming up with teams that are right around us. It's important."

The Flames, they'll tell you, are in a comfortable spot.

They've managed to dip back into a playoff spot coming out of their own five-day break, and have done so without hitting their stride. Calgary slumped to a 5-0 loss against the Arizona Coyotes, but rebounded to take a decision in regulation against the Flyers.

Neither were banner nights from the homeside.

But …

"There's no moral victories anymore," Brouwer said. "There's just victories.

"The two games coming out of the break haven't been our best but we were able to get points last night and put ourselves back in a playoff spot. That's what we're focused on right now.

"There's a lot of work to do. Last night … not our best game but we're able to find a win and that's what we need to do at this time of year.

"We need to keep progressing our game, keep evolving our game.

"There are teams that win and they have the confidence to win, and then there's teams that are learning to win. I think we're making that transition from learning to win to knowing we're going to win.

"We're going into games with confidence knowing that we're going to get points in every game and then we'll see how the outcome goes."

Outcomes for the Flames.  

Outcomes for those teams around the Flames.  

It's scoreboard-watching season in Calgary.

"It's hard not to look right now," Versteeg said. "You don't want to focus on it as an all-day thing, but you do want to understand where you are and what desperation you need."

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