The Calgary Flames are into the NHL playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
Despite losing 3-1 to the Minnesota Wild Thursday, the Flames will head to the playoffs because of some big help from a a big time rival -- the Edmonton Oilers.
In one of hock
ey's ironic twists, the Oilers, eliminated from the post season by the Flames earlier this week, 2-1 win over Vancouver late Thursday night secured a playoff spot for the Flames.
Calgary coaches and players were likely in the air, flying from St. Paul to Vancouver as their Battle of Alberta rivals were beating the Canucks at GM Place.
The Flames sit in seventh in the Western Conference with 92 points while Nashville has 91 points and sits in eighth spot. Nashville plays in Chicago Friday to finish their regular season. Calgary finishes the regular season in Vancouver Saturday.
Vancouver started the game in ninth with 88 points and, with just one game remaining, Saturday against Calgary, they cannot reach the playoffs.
Saturday's game in Vancouver can now only serve as positioning in the playoff picture as far as the Flames are concerned. Calgary can finish as high as sixth or as low as eigth depending on the remaining games in the schedule, which wraps up Sunday.
If the standings were to remain the same, and the Flames finished in seventh, they would play San Jose in the first round. They could end up playing Detroit for the second consecutive season, if they finish in eighth. They could also end up playing Minnesota if they finish sixth. For that to happen the Flames need to win Saturday against Vancouver and the Wild need to defeat Colorado on Sunday.
The eight teams going to the playoffs in the Western Conference are Detroit, San Jose, Anaheim, Minnesota, Dallas, Colorado, Calgary and Nashville.
The Western Conference race has been a wild and whacky ride with positions changing on a daily basis. The Northwest Division has been as tight a race as anywhere with all five teams in the division in playoff contention into the final week of play.