SAN JOSE - Seven games.
Get them all and the Calgary Flames would have 99 points, surely enough to get into the post-season dance.
That's how head coach Brent Sutter sees things as the Flames prepare to play game three on this California road swing. Having picked up two of a possible four points thus far with an overtime loss in Anaheim and a shootout loss in Los Angeles, the Flames now enter the Shark Tank looking to take two points from San Jose.
"There are seven games left and we are right there," said Sutter. "Yes, teams have games in hand. But just because you have games in hand doesn't mean anything unless you win them. And those teams play each other a lot."
So, the focus is narrow, on the game at hand. Not the big picture.
"You can't dwell on that," Sutter said of the big picture theory. "You just keep playing, keep pushing. We know there are 14 points out there to be had and we just have to focus on one game at a time and accumulate as many points as we can. We have played pretty well on this trip. Unfortunately we haven't gotten the full amount of points out of it."
With an injury to Niklas Hagman (concussion-like symptoms) rookie Greg Nemisz has joined the team here in San Jose and is expected to make his NHL debut tonight.
Nemisz, a first-year pro and first round draft pick of the Flames, is second in scoring with the Abbotsford Heat.
"You don't like to see players having to come out of the line-up because of injuries. But it is what it is. As negative as it is, on the other side it is positive. We are giving our young guys a chance."
Chances are Nemisz will join fellow rookie Lance Bouma and Matt Stajan to form the Flames fourth line.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Miikka Kiprusoff will start for the Flames. He is 33-22-6 with a .907 save percentage. Kiprusoff is 13-10-0-2 against the Sharks lifetime. Antti Niemi, who won a Stanley Cup with Chicago last season, will be in the Sharks goal. He is 5-1-0-0 against Calgary.
THE OTHER SIDE
Dany Heatley returns to action tonight after serving a two-game suspension for an elbow on Dallas pest Steve Ott. The Sharks won both games (and have won three straight) with Heatley out but welcome the offensive-minded forward back into the line-up. "He should be refreshed, a little healthier simply because he's had a week off," said head coach Todd McLellan. "It might take him a shift or two to get back into the swing of things, a week is a long time."
Rookie Logan Couture, who has 27 goals and is a legitimate Calder Trophy candidate, skated on Tuesday and may be in the line-up tonight against the Flames. He will be a game time decision. "Certainly if he is capable of going without the threat of further injury, we'll put him in the line-up." Couture crashed into the boards, inuring his knee, on Saturday.
The Flames are 1 for 10 with the man advantage on this California swing...The penalty-kill, meanwhile, is 5-for-7 and will need to be very good in the Shark Tank where San Jose ranks second in the league with the man advantage...Alex Tanguay has five assists in three games against the Sharks this season.
Giordano-Sarich, Regehr-Bouwmeester, Staios-Babchuk