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GAME: Calgary Flames (41-29-7-3) at Los Angeles Kings (28-28-16-8).

TIME: Friday, 10:30 p.m. EST.

With their eight-year playoff drought over, the Calgary Flames can now focus on preparing for the first round.

Calgary plays its second-to-last game of the regular season when it begins a two-game trip with a matchup against the Los Angeles Kings.

Jarome Iginla scored his 40th goal of the season, and Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 27 shots for his fourth shutout of the season as the Flames beat the Phoenix Coyotes 1-0 on Wednesday night to clinch their first playoff berth since 1995-96.

Iginla is the only Calgary player remaining from that playoff appearance.

"This is great. It feels unbelievable," Iginla said. "It's been a long wait."

Iginla, who tied Columbus' Rick Nash for the NHL lead in goals, was just 18 years old when he joined the Flames from his junior team in 1996 for the third game of Calgary's opening round playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

"That was a great experience," Iginla said. "I had my eyes wide open. When we lost out, I wanted to win and it was too bad, but thought, 'We'll get them next year.' Unfortunately, 'next year' was a lot longer than any of us would have liked."

Calgary is sixth in the Western Conference, but can finish as high as fifth or as low as eighth. Depending on what seed they get, the Flames will play either Detroit, San Jose, Vancouver, Colorado or Dallas in the first round.

Calgary went a combined 7-13-2-2 against those five clubs this season.

Los Angeles' battle for a playoff berth ended Monday when it was eliminated with a 2-1 loss to the Avalanche. The Kings lost 3-0 to the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday to fall to 0-8-0-1 in their last nine games.

Los Angeles, which has lost five straight at home, is one defeat short of tying the franchise record of 10 straight, set during the 1983-84 season.

"The bottom line when you are a kid and you dream of playing in the NHL, if somebody would say to you you're going to play with the L.A. Kings even though they are not in the playoffs you would play all out," Kings forward Luc Robitaille said. "You would give everything that you have. I think that is where we have to be as a team."

The Flames conclude their regular season on Sunday against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, while the Kings visit San Jose for their finale.

STANDINGS: Flames - 92 points, 3rd place, 5 PB, Northwest Division. Kings - 80 points, 3rd place, 22 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Flames - Iginla, 40 goals and 72 points; Craig Conroy, 38 assists; Chris Simon, 248 PIM. Kings - Alexander Frolov, 24 goals; Robitaille and Jozef Stumpel, 29 assists; Robitaille, 51 points; Sean Avery, 259 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 31): Flames - Power play: 15.2 percent (53 for 348), 21st in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.0 percent (289 for 340), 9th. Kings - Power play: 13.9 percent (49 for 352), 26th. Penalty killing: 81.2 percent (267 for 329), 28th.

GOALTENDERS: Flames - Kiprusoff (23-10-4, 4 SO, 1.69 GAA); Roman Turek (6-10-0, 3, 2.35). Kings - Roman Cechmanek (18-20-6, 5, 2.48); Cristobal Huet (10-15-10, 3, 2.41).


LAST MEETING: Saturday; Flames 3-2, OT. At Calgary, Alberta, Conroy tied the game at 2-2 with just under eight minutes left in regulation, then assisted on Shean Donovan's goal 1:06 into overtime.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Flames - 20-15-2-2 on the road; Kings - 15-15-9-1 at home.

Associated Press
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