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Flames-Canucks: From the morning skate

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames
The arrival of the Vancouver Canucks usually adds an extra dose of excitment to Calgary Flames locker room. Over the past couple seasons, the two have been embroiled in a heated battle for dominance of the Northwest Division and the rivalry seems to have surpassed that of the Battle of Alberta.

However, Saturday's matchup against the boys from the west coast isn't shaping up like it usually does.

"Usually when it's Vancouver, we hype it up and we get excited," captain Jarome Iginla said. "It's not really 'Oh, we have Vancouver tonight.' Every game right now, it's somebody around us in the playoffs ... We're just ready to play."

That "it's just another game" attitude has become the mantra for the Flames who are deadlocked with three other clubs with 81 points on the season. As of Saturday morning, they sit in the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

"We're just still trying to keep with our goal: we think if you win two out of three games to the end of the year, we're going to be in a pretty good spot," blueliner Mark Giordano stated. "Sometimes it's tough seeing the overtime games and the three pointers but that's the way it is. It's exciting. It's an exciting time of the year and we've put ourselves in a good spot to be right in contention."

That being said, the club hasn't forgotten who they are up against. The Canucks sit comfortably atop the Western Conference standings with 97 points, nine more than second place Detroit. Giordano was quick to point out they do realize the challenges of playing against the Canucks but are relishing the opportunity.

"They're definitely one of the top teams in the league, if not the top team right now so it's a big test for us. But from our standpoint, we dropped our last game and the way the playoff race is going, you can't afford to lose games back to back. We have to try to find a way to get this win and try to string a few together."

The Canucks are highly skilled through all four forward lines. Their transition game can put their opposition to bed and their speed in the offensive zone makes defending against them extremely tough. How does a team combat that?

"Try and get the puck deep and make them play in their own zone as much as possible," Giordano chuckled. "They are who they are because they create chances off the rush. We have to do a good job of our forwards coming back through the middle and not giving them those odd man rushes."

Giordano's defensive partner Cory Sarich echoed that statement, adding the Flames couldn't let themselves get too worked up over the competition.

"For us, it's playing a good, solid game. That's our biggest thing," he said. "There's got to be some desperation in your game but you've got to have ... control is a good word. You've got to play a smart game of hockey out there. You can run around, show lots of energy but you've got to do it in a positive way. I think we need a good mix of both."

Winger Fredrik Modin did not skate this morning so recently recalled Lance Bouma may get a chance to play tonight. He skated on a line with Niklas Hagman and Mikeal Backlund.

"Bouma will be a game-time decision," assistant coach Dave Lowry said after the skate.

Game Factoids

Calgary has scored six power play goals in their past six games, going 6/20 (30%). The Flames have the second best power play on home ice in the NHL, with a connection rate of 23.9%.

The Flames penalty kill has also been going along nicely, killing 23 of the 25 infractions they've taken in their past 11 games.

Jay Bouwmeester will tie the NHL iron man record for a defenceman, set by Karlis Skrastins, tonight. He's playing in his 495th consecutive game tonight. Bouwmeester's streak started on Mar. 6, 2004.

Expected Lines & Defence Pairings

Tanguay - Moss - Iginla
Bourque - Jokinen - Glencross
Kostopoulos - Stajan - Jackman
Hagman - Backlund - Bouma

Regehr - Bouwmeester
Giordano - Sarich
Staios - Babchuk
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