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The Final Push

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames
CALGARY, AB -- In the final week of the regular season, the Calgary Flames are still in the hunt for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Coming into the week, the Flames are sitting in ninth place with 91 points after winning both outings on their brief two-game road trip over the weekend. After a heart-attack inducing tilt in Denver, pivot Olli Jokinen surmised the situation perfectly.

"We still keep breathing," he sighed in relief to the assembled media.

The Chicago Blackhawks are clinging to the final postseason position in the West with 92 points on the year but they are far from secure. In addition to the Flames, the Dallas Stars are hot on the Hawks heels with 89 points.

The Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators aren't safe either. The Ducks, currently in seventh, are only up by a single point on Chicago. The Predators have widened the gap between themselves and the Hawks but only by a three-point margin.

The Flames are at a disadvantage when it comes to games-played. They have two regular season battles left, both coming against divisional rivals. The last-placed Edmonton Oilers will once again try to play spoiler on Wednesday night when they visit the Scotiabank Saddledome. The Vancouver Canucks will be the Flames last opponent of the season with their game taking place on Saturday in Calgary.

Both the Blackhawks and Stars have four games left in their schedule. Of the two, the Stars have easier finish on paper. They take on the Columbus Blue Jackets, the 14th-placed Colorado Avalanche in a back-to-back scenario and finish off on Sunday by taking on the Minnesota Wild.

Chicago has to face the Montreal Canadiens, the St. Louis Blues and finishes off their regular season schedule with two games against the Detroit Red Wings.

The Ducks and Predators have three games remaining. Anaheim will stay in California for all three contests, playing the San Jose Sharks before battling the Los Angeles Kings in a back-to-back games.

In comparison, Nashville must take on the Atlanta Thrashers, Columbus Blue Jackets and St. Louis Blues before their season comes to a close.

The Flames must win their remaining two games without needing a shootout. While they're been excellent in them, shootout wins don't count when it comes to conference tie-breakers. All four of the other clubs have more regulation and overtime wins when put head-to-head with Calgary.

Despite the up-hill battle they are facing, the Flames are optimistic.

"We know obviously what situation we're in," Mark Giordano said last week. "But until that final day comes, we're not going to give in. Nobody's giving up in here.

"We just have to play hard and hope for the best now."
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