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MOVING FORWARD

The Flames are putting a couple of tough setbacks behind them and focusing on making up ground in the playoff race

by TORIE PETERSON @ToriePeterson / CalgaryFlames.com

Travis Hamonic knows how it sounds.

Athletes have uttered phrases and statements like it in countless interviews, often making them lose their impact.

But it is the best summation of what the Flames have to do as the clock on the regular season winds down and they push to make up ground in an excruciatingly tight playoff race.

"We have to move forward," the defenceman said after the Flames' 5-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, the second game in as many days that they dropped to a Western Conference club.

"It sounds cliché but there's no sense in sitting and complaining about it. We have to move forward."

While the Flames still sit just one point out of a Wildcard spot with 73, they have two teams ahead of them, jostling to get past the likes of the LA Kings, Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks.

Just how tight is the West? The Kings hold the third spot in the Pacific Division with 75 points, the Stars are in the first Wildcard position with 76 points and the Anaheim Ducks sit second in the Wildcard race with 74 points. The St. Louis Blues also have 74 points and, with last night's win, the Colorado Avalanche now have 73 points.

Points are at a premium and too many loses to conference rivals could be the difference between playing in mid-April or packing it in at the end of the regular season.

After going ahead by a pair of goals, the Flames surrendered five unanswered tallies and the Avalanche slipped ahead of them in the standings with a 34-24-5 record on the year.

The frustration was palatable following Thursday's game; something which head coach Glen Gulutzan wants his team to use their advantage down the stretch. Rather than remain frustrated, he is looking for his players to channel that emotion in the right way.

"I don't think we park it. I think we harness it and take it moving forward," Gulutzan emphasized.

"You've got to learn from it, you've got to harness that anger and you've got to get going here. I liked the way our guys played in the third. They were an angry group. We just couldn't break through.

"I'm not saying you can play angry because frustration and anger are pretty closely intertwined but this has got to unite us and galvanize us as we head into our last 17 games."

The Flames now have five games against Eastern Conference opponents before they close out the second half of the month with Pacific Division rivals, many of whom are within striking distance of Calgary in the postseason battle.

The group knows they can't look too far ahead at those match-ups and get caught up on what those tilts could mean in the standings. Rather, they have to keep their focus on one game at time.

First up: the New York Rangers on Friday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

"We have to get a win. That's it," Hamonic stated. "No bottom line. We have to get a win. We're at that time of the year."

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