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FLAMES FOCUSED ON PUSHING FORWARD

The Flames are looking to push past the likes of Anaheim and Edmonton

by TORIE PETERSON @ToriePeterson / CalgaryFlames.com

At this juncture of the season, scoreboard watching is inevitable.

In a jammed Western Conference, the Wildcard race is a heated battle between the likes of the Flames, LA Kings and St. Louis Blues. The Pacific Division is just as tight, with the Edmonton Oilers sitting in second with 76 points in 64 games and the Anaheim Ducks in third with 74 points through 63 skates.

The Kings pulled off a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs last night, vaulting themselves into the second Wildcard spot with 68 points. The Blues are right below them with a 67 points.

But with his team sitting in the first Wildcard spot with four points over the Kings, Glen Gulutzan isn't concerning himself with what LA and St. Louis are doing.

"I'm not worried about the back pressure. I'm worried about what kind of pressure we're going to put on people," he said after today's optional morning skate. "I didn't watch the game yesterday, I got up this morning and saw the scores. We're just trying to get focused on Detroit and the types of games that we're going to be facing in these last 18 (games). We talked about that this morning and just where we have to go as a group."

Tonight, they will face a Detroit Red Wings team who will likely miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990. Sitting 10 points out of a Eastern Conference Wildcard spot, they were sellers ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline, parting ways with four players; Thomas Vanek was sent to the Florida Panthers, Tomas Jurco was dealt to the Chicago Blackhawks, Brendan Smith is now a New York Ranger, and Steve Ott was traded to Montreal.

But teams who are playing without the sort of pressure teams on the bubble are faced with often pose major threats.

"There's two types of teams: the teams battling to stay in and the teams that are playing a little bit more free. Those are the two types of games that you will face," Gulutzan stated.

"I just think with the players on that team, playing against Detroit over the years that I've been in the league, you're going to see a real push from a real character group."

"They have some world class players on this team. This is a very proud group who have been in the playoffs lots of years. Some of the pressure might be off them a little bit now, I don't know what. But watching their last game, it was very fast, lots of pucks at the net, making plays, good in the circle. We've got to be prepared for that and we talked about it this morning."

With the Oilers idle this evening, the Flames have a chance to take a big step forward in their bid to secure a Pacific Division playoff spot.

They are 6-0-1 in their last seven games and are coming off one of their most successful months in recent history. Calgary went 9-2-1 in a dozen games in February, including a 6-1-1 mark away from the Scotiabank Saddledome. Their .792 winning percentage was the best in a month (where they played more than four games) since they went 10-2-1 in November 2005.

Sean Monahan ties that success to group confidence.

"At the start of the year, we'd be winning games and teams would come back and beat us there in the third but right now, we're playing a complete 60 and the belief in the room is huge."

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