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After five days off, the Flames are eager to get back to work


CALGARY -- They broke in an enviable position. 

Holding the first Wildcard berth into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference and four wins in their past five outings made the sun a little warmer, time with family a little more enjoyable, and the five-day break much more relaxing. 

No more.

Not with plenty of work remaining ahead of the Calgary Flames.

Because the rest caught up as they rested.   

And the Flames return on the outside looking in.

"I think in between our All-Star break and this last break we had a four-game segment we knew was really important," captain Mark Giordano said. "We did a good job going 3-1 to sort of set ourselves up for this last little stretch here.

"Now it's every point matters.

"We see the standings. It's pretty close right now. There's some teams that have jumped ahead of us. We have to pick up as many points as we can. Now it's going to be that stretch where you play every other night.

"It's a real fun time of the year." 

They'll hit it refreshed.

And ready.

"We've got a big push," veteran forward Troy Brouwer said.

"Twenty-six games left.

"We're not in the playoffs now but we feel if we continue to play the way we played before this break then we're going to put ourselves in a good spot to be in a playoff spot."

They'll have to jump a team to do it.  

Calgary sits one point back of the idle Los Angeles Kings for the second Wildcard entry in the West and three behind the Nashville Predators after a 5-3 win against the Dallas Stars on Sunday.

The home side has a five-point cushion on each of the Vancouver Canucks, Stars and Winnipeg Jets, too.

The Flames will look to close one margin, and open up another, when they hit the ice to host the Arizona Coyotes at Scotiabank Saddledome on Monday (7 p.m. MT; SNW, SN960) to officially close a near-weeklong break. 

Video: The Flames are ready to make a push for the playoffs

"I think you just come at it as hard as you can," goaltender Chad Johnson said. "You can't take your foot off the pedal. You just have to go as hard as you possibly can, be mentally engaged and just be ready."

Sunday went a long way to helping that thought.

"Today is important for us to just get back into it, not go into it easy and feel it out," Johnson added. "Today for us was important, and tomorrow getting your mind right … knowing we're coming down the stretch here we need some big wins and we have to play certain way to get wins in this league and I think we've seen that the last two weeks here.

"If we play well we can do good. If we don't we're not going to have success."

From Glen Gulutzan's perspective, his group is well on their way.

"The practice actually scares me a little bit today because it was a lot better than I thought it was going to be," said the coach. "That was good. We had guys that worked out during the break. We had other guys that, if you look at our travel, came back in Saturday.

"It's a good sign. I thought it was a good practice from our group. It's always a challenge physically. We got a good work day in. 

"But mentally getting back engaged is another issue too. We addressed that today."

Physically, the group was back together. 

Mentally, it was time to return, too.

"If you can get your mind around the legs burning and the lungs burning you can really push yourself through it and get a lot out of it," Giordano said. "That's what I think a lot of our coaches do is gear towards the mental part of it. They don't want to see us give up. They mention it all the time. They want us to push through things.

"Today I think that's what it was all about, and getting the system going again."

Because from here on out …

"It's hockey, hockey, hockey," Brouwer said. 

"The break is also a good mental escape, to be able to not think about hockey too much because you know for the next two months straight you're going to play every other night, looking at the scoreboard three times a day."

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