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Forging ahead

by Mike Board / Calgary Flames

DENVER, Col., — Hey, nobody said this would be smooth sailing.

In reality the Calgary Flames battle to secure a playoff spot is going to be an up-and-down affair in the Western Conference. One day your in, the next your on the outside looking in. Such was the case this weekend. On Friday, after losing 5-4 to Anaheim, the Flames traveled to Vancouver to face the top team in the league in the Canucks. When the puck was dropped, the Flames held down eighth place in the conference. When the game ended in a 4-2 loss, they found themselves a point behind the Minnesota Wild.

As of Sunday, as the Flames flew from Vancouver to Denver for their next game, Monday against the Colorado Avalanche, there were nine teams separated by a mere six points in the Western Conference standings. So, get your juggling hats on. This is shaping up as one very interesting race to the finish.

"In our last 23 games, what does that give us, four losses in regulation time? It's been a pretty good run and we just get re-charged and focus on our next game," said head coach Brent Sutter, fully aware of the potential roller-coaster the Flames may be riding through the next couple of months.

"You know if you lose one or don't play and other teams are playing, with all the teams right there, it's going to happen," said Sutter of bouncing in and out of the playoff positions. "You can't get too focused in on that. At this point, the only thing you can control is how you play and getting wins yourself."

And just how did Sutter feel his team, playing in back-to-back games against the Canucks who had three days rest?

"I thought we played really damn well the last two periods and created opportunities. "We had top end chances and weren't able to capitalize on them. They are a very good hockey team but for the last 40 (minutes) we were right with them," said Sutter.

The Flames fell behind 1-0 but scored two quick goals in the second period to take a lead. The Canucks, however, didn't go quietly as Mikael Samuelsson scored twice, once on the power play, before the period ended. The Canucks added a late empty-net goal after Rene Bourque hit a post and Brendan Morrison was foiled on a breakaway.

Truth be told, there wasn't much suspect about the Flames game against Vancouver. The difference, really, was that Vancouver scored twice with the man advantage and Calgary went 0-3 on the power play.

"They are the top team in the league and they capitalized on their chances, but it was an even game, going back and forth. We had a lot of chances in the third to tie it," said Flames defenceman Mark Giordano. "Nothing to be ashamed of there. We played a good game. We were right there and they just didn't go in for us in the third."

Captain Jarome Iginla, who was a bit of a monster in the game with five shots and some excellent puck battle work along the boards, said the Flames are certainly not satisfied with a loss, but that there were good things executed during the loss to Vancouver.

For that reason, there was no panic as the final 24 games of the season begin.

"It doesn't feel good but we've been able to have that consistent game and consistent effort that's given us a chance to win every night," said Iginla. "We keep going with this work ethic...and we will be fine."

NOTEWORTHY: With a second period goal, his 16th of the season, Curtis Glencross extended his points streak to four games (4g, 2a). He was moved to the top line with Iginla and Morrison against Vancouver. The line combined for 12 of the Flames 26 shots....Iginla (1g, 6a) has a five-game point streak while Morrison has three assists in his last three games...Mark Giordano has now blocked 139 shots this season. Next closest is Jay Bouwmeester with 98.




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