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ROYAL FLUSH

Victory over Kings would be a big step towards Flames' playoff goal

by AARON VICKERS @aavickers / calgaryflames.com

A 'w' won't put an 'x' beside their name.

But there's no underselling the importance of a win to the Flames against Jarome Iginla and the visiting Los Angeles Kings at Scotiabank Saddledome on Sunday, a team the homeside leads by nine points in the NHL standings with just 11 skates remaining in the regular season.

"It's a huge game," said centre Sean Monahan. "Everyone knows that. These are the games that are fun to play in. You've got to step up. Everybody has to play a role in these games.

"Every shift matters in this kind of game. You've got to be at your best.

"You've got to be mentally ready. Right now we're pretty eager to get going here for tomorrow night.

 "It's one we're really looking forward to."

 The Flames, thanks to a 16-3-1 run fuelled by a 10-game winning streak from Feb. 21-March 13, sit third in the Pacific Division entering action Saturday with the Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers sandwiched around them.

 The Ducks? One point up in second in the Pacific.

 The Oilers? One point back in fourth, and in the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.

 And the Kings? On the outside looking in, four back of the St. Louis Blues for the second wild card. 

The implications, both for Calgary's and for the crew from California, are significant.

"This is what you're battling for for 70 games," forward Michael Frolik said. "It's right there.

"It's right there for us.

"We know they have the push. Always against them it's a heavy, big game. We expect that tomorrow. In the room we said we're going to be ready for a big battle. We just have to make sure we are ready. We've done a good job of that. We just have to continue to do that and be heavy and be hitting and battling hard. Hopefully we do that tomorrow.

"We'll be ready for it."

Both sides will, given the stakes.

 

"Both teams are going to be desperate," said Monahan, who two years ago had an assist and a plus-2 rating in a 3-1 win against the Kings in Game 81 that punched Calgary's first playoff appearance since 2009, and eliminated Los Angeles' bid, all at once.

 "We're trying to stay in the position we are and move up as we go. They're trying to get into the spot where we are. This is a big game.

 "Both clubs have to be real desperate."

 A win increases Calgary's spread to 11 points, and allows a greater focus on jostling for position in the Pacific. A loss trims that lead to just seven, with one game in hand for the Kings and two more meetings between the two clubs down the stretch.

The wider the gap the better, for coach Glen Gulutzan.

Because anything can still happen.

"There's lots of hockey left," he said. "I can remember situations back in Dallas even before I was there when Marc Crawford was there of teams rattling off five, six in a row at the end and getting themselves back into it. It's too far away for me.

"It's two points.

"We've got a goal of where we want to be points-wise, and this is a home game, it's a four-point game, but it's two points for us in our goal."

Two points towards clinching.

And that coveted 'x' that earns Calgary the right to play beyond Game 82. 

"The 'x', for me, is kind of a visual target, right?" Gulutzan said. "It's something you see when guys look at the standings or the sheets. You get an 'x' beside your name and it's significant in this game.

"It's something that we're focused on and working to not getting so focused on if can we eliminate someone or can we not. It's really about ourselves and trying to meet a goal we set at the start of the year. The 'x' is a visual thing, then it's one game at a time.

"It's a home game. It's a four-point game.

"All our energy goes into that."

 

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