It seems like every game the Calgary Flames have played in the past month has been "the biggest game of the season" and once again that phrase applies to their battle with the Ducks tonight.
"It's really irrelevant who you're playing right now," head coach Brent Sutter said after the team's optional skate. "You've got to win every game. But you've got to take it one at a time, pick away at it and focus in on the one game. When it's over, you get ready for the next. We have to make sure that our focus is proper and not get caught up again in who are opponent is going to be come Friday or Sunday. Let's just worry about our opponent tonight."
The Flames defensive zone coverage lately has been something that has sunk games for them. Pivot Olli Jokinen believes the team can change bad habits in their own zone and will need to do that if they want to beat Anaheim/
"Absolutely we can be better. There's no reason why we can't be better," he stated emphatically. "The last two weeks, we've slipped. We haven't been as good as we could be, especially in the first period.
"Nobody gave us a chance all year long. December we were two points ahead of Edmonton and they had three games in hand. The situation where we've been this season, it's pretty amazing we're in a position now to control our own fate to get in the playoffs. This is our playoffs now. We've got to get two points and keep this thing going."
The Flames had three days off in between games this week, a rarity in a hectic NHL schedule, and captain Jarome Iginla believes that gives his team the advantage over the Ducks.
"It's been nice to get that win in Edmonton, come back, get rested, load up and all be charged up for this game. Other teams have to play a couple more games, seven games in ten nights and things like that, so we just have to take care of ours. We know it's a big challenge ahead of us. We had some good help yesterday and now we've got to do our part as a team and win today."
Calgary is squaring off an extremely skilled offensive group led by the NHL's leading scorer, Corey Perry. Blueliner Mark Giordano reiterated Jokinen's comments about defensive zone coverage, especially when #10 is on the ice.
"Very skilled guys who aren't afraid to get dirty and go in the corners and stand in front - Perry's really good at standing in front - so we have just do a good job. Sometimes you don't want to run at them. You want to contain them more than anything."
Another factor that has come into play over the past couple games is a slow, tight start. Iginla noted the team had addressed that issue.
"We've definitely talked about. It was more just the last so many games - they've all been really big games and it's kind of been the first ten minutes we come out and have just kind of felt out the game and haven't been moving the puck the same way. Once we get into, we're good. We're good to go. It's not that nobody knows the importance or anything like that."
Since the Flames held an optional skate this morning, the lines are only predictions from the past couple of days in practice:
Tanguay - Backlund - Iginla
Bourque - Jokinen - Glencross
Kotalik - Stajan - Jackman
Nemisz - Kostopoulos - Bouma
Regehr - Bouwmeester
Giordano - Sarich
Babchuk - Staios