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ANOTHER MILESTONE

Giordano will take sole possession of second spot in games played as a Flame when he skates in his 827th tonight

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

The average first marriage, statistics tell us, lasts roughly eight years.

Well, Mark Giordano's 'til-retirement-do-us-part vows with the Flames already has that beat by five.

This is a union with staying power.

They tied the knot back in 2005, and outside of a one-season fling in Russia, have been an item ever since.

Tonight versus the Ottawa Senators, Giordano moves past Rock-Em/Sock-Em Robyn Regehr and into second place in regular-season games played in the colours, at 827.

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BIG. SAVE. DAVE.

Rittich comes up big in another win - and shows his posts some love with a little smooch

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

He emerged from the crease chaos with, in his mind, irrefutable proof - for all to see - in a glove-less hand, as if he held Willy Wonka's golden ticket triumphantly aloft.

Now David Rittich will be the first to tell you he didn't manage to subdue the Columbus Blue Jackets single-handedly.

But he certainly did his bit bare-handedly.

"Oh, Gio saved it," confessed the Flames netminder, who combined with his captain on an incredible moment of second-period door dead-bolting. "Then the puck was in my glove. So I was sure he saved it at the right time. 

"Without him it was 3-2 and you never know how the game can go."

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FOCUSED ON THE PRIZE

Clinching a playoff spot was great but Giordano and Co. still have sights set on finishing at the top

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Having cleared customs and with passports officially stamped for admittance to playoff-land, there remains a lingering matter of securing the penthouse suite in both the Pacific Division and Western Conference during their stay.

One slender point separates the Flames and San Jose Sharks, who are expected to play between now and April 6 a back-and-forth, serve-and-volley, one-upsmanship game reminiscent of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in a fifth set tiebreaker at Roland Garros.

And, in a way, that impetus to stay strong, stay sharp, stay dominant, could be crucial in getting out of the starting gate fast in post-season.

"You want to be playing meaningful games,'' agreed skipper Mark Giordano. "It's not like a switch.

"You don't just turn it on.

"Looking forward to this race right to the finish and it'll be good for us to get prepared for playoffs."

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FLAMES EXTRA - FAMILY MAN

After a terrifying car crash put his father, Mike, on a long road to recovery, Austin Czarnik made a point of overcoming his own set of odds

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

The phone call from big brother Micheal caught ninth-grader Austin Czarnik unawares.

"At first, I thought he was kidding," confesses the Flames' all-industry forward. "He was always joking around with me. So it seemed to be one of those: 'Are you sure?' moments. Didn't take more than a couple seconds, though, to realize you don't joke about something like that."

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'HIGH-END SKILL THERE, BOY'

Coach, teammates marvel at Tkachuk's impressive performance against Rangers

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

He kicked off the evening with a 30-yard lofted all-touch pass to hit a receiver at full gallop that would've left Bo Levi Mitchell applauding in appreciation.

"Unbelievable,'' praised linemate Michael Frolik of the skill, and audacity, in even contemplating, much less successfully completing, such a play. "Crazy. Great vision. Great stretch pass."

He finished it off by rapping home his 32nd goal of an evolving campaign from a more familiar spot, loitering with deadly intent around the opposition net.

"I felt," said Matthew Tkachuk, asked to take his own Friday-night temperature, "pretty good."

Lordamighty. Imagine if he'd felt top 'o the morning.

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SAY WHAT: MINUTE MANAGEMENT

A rundown of what was discussed following Thursday's practice

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

 

BILL PETERS REFLECTS ON WIN AGAINST JERSEY:

"I thought our D did a real good job moving the puck and our forwards did a good job working hard to reload and be available for them. I thought everybody found a positive way to make a contribution and that was good to see."

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WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED

Derek Ryan is doing it all as versatile centre with offensive upside, and as a mentor to those around him

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Five-year-old Zane Ryan tucked in close as intrusive cameras and bobbing voice recorders and bloodshot-eyed media mongrels descended for a few minutes of his pop's time.

When asked who his favourite Flame might be (hint, hint), Zane went shyly silent. Then piped up, clinging ever tighter:

"Daddy."

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'I'LL BE READY'

A November injury put Juuso Valimaki's promising pro start on hold, but he's back up to speed now, honing his craft and awaiting the call in AHL Stockton

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

All things considered, reckons Juuso Valimaki, the reacclimatization has gone rather smoothly.

"Those first couple of games were pretty tough," admits the blue-chip Flames' defence prospect. "Probably a little tougher than I'd imagined.

"But I'd never been out that long before, so it was all new territory for me.

"Trying to get used to the speed and playing games again, I felt I was finding my way back.

"After those first couple, though, things went quick. So looking on the flip side, it's not so bad if after a week and a half you're thinking: 'OK. Everything's fine. I'm good. This is how I should feel.'

"We're playing better as a team and that makes it easier for everyone individually.

"My confidence is up again.

"I'm back to where I want to be."

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MAGICAL NIGHT

Top line goes off against Devils, with Gaudreau, Monahan and Lindholm combining for 14 points in win

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

There were, among the flurry of headgear wafting downwards from the inside heavens, red hats and black hats and white hats. Mesh hats and canvas hats.

But the type of hat most fitting the occasion was nowhere to be found in the gathering pile being scooped off the Scotiabank Saddledome ice 12 minutes into the third period.

One of those long, crooked-at-the-tip models favoured by enchanters, a la Gandalf, or the battered old grey edition used to sort the houses at Hogwarts.

Because this was, plain and simple, a performance of wizardly dimensions.

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UP TO SPEED

Back from a conditioning stint with the Stockton Heat, Michael Stone is ready to return after missing time with a blood clot

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

That first shift felt as if it went on a while.

In fact, Michael Stone confessed, it seemed to run longer than Blu-Ray viewings of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Back-to-back-to-back. Extended editions.

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