CALGARY, AB -- There aren’t any remaining hurdles in the schedule.
No more breaks.
Only crunch time.
And for the Calgary Flames, there aren’t any excuses remaining either.
“You have your ups and downs in a season and heading into the break we were definitely on a down part,” said forward Joe Colborne, whose Flames return from the NHL All-Star break having lost three consecutive contests.
“Hopefully the guys got away, got a chance to kind of shut their minds down a little bit and come back recharged. I felt we had some good energy out there today. We had some guys laughing and joking. Sometimes that’s what you need. We know we have an uphill battle and it’s got to start now. We can’t afford to be giving any more games away.
“Hopefully we can take advantage of it.”
With 45 points through 48 games, Calgary sits sixth in the Pacific Division and trail the third-place Arizona Coyotes by eight points. The Anaheim Ducks and Vancouver Canucks, each with 51 points, are also ahead of the Flames.
The Los Angeles Kings lead the division with 63 points; the San Jose Sharks are second with 56 points.
The situation is clear to Calgary coach Bob Hartley.
“We need to basically win two out of every three games,” Hartley said. “We’re in that situation. We didn’t collect points at the right time against the right opponents in the first part of the season. Now it’s the final stretch. We don’t have a choice. If we want to be a playoff team we have to redeem ourselves.”
It’s the same message Hartley delivered to his group before practice Monday, the first since breaking following a 2-1 loss against the Nashville Predators on Jan. 27.
He liked what he saw out of it.
“We have time to get back in gear,” said Hartley, whose group will welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to Scotiabank Saddledome in their first post-All-Star break meeting on Wednesday. “Give lots of credit to the players. We had an excellent practice today for being off the ice for quite a few days. I really liked the energy, the emotion out there. And at the same time we know our situation. We’re refreshed. It’s a chance to hit the reset button and just go shock the league. I told them on Wednesday night after our last game, I said, ‘Boys, we know our situation … lets do it.’”
The hill isn’t a small one.
The ascent starts, Colborne suggested, with capitalizing.
“We need to make sure we’re burying our chances,” he said. “It’s easy to say, but it’s not like we haven’t been generating them. It’s one thing to say at least we’re getting chances and it’ll come, but in this game if you don’t bear down and make sure you capitalize on them, you wont get too many more.
“Last year I felt like we were getting some bounces and you get a couple bounces you start feeling good and then you’re finishing everything. I think we just need to bear down and make sure that we’re supporting our goalie when we can and finish in the offensive zone.”
Colborne & Co. will need to, with 32 games remaining and three teams to leapfrog.
“It’s the final stretch now,” Colborne said. “There are no more breaks…no more anything. We need to get hot and get hot now.”
NOTES: Micheal Ferland skated on a line alongside Matt Stajan and David Jones. Hartley said Ferland “should be good to go” against the Hurricanes on Wednesday. Hartley also confirmed goaltender Karri Ramo would get the start against Carolina. Final evaluations on Colborne and Josh Jooris, who missed Wednesday’s game because of undisclosed injuries, will also be made.