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Flames end season vs. League-leading Blackhawks

by Mike Battaglino

FLAMES (19-24-4) at BLACKHAWKS (35-6-5)


Last 10: Calgary 6-4-0; Chicago 8-1-1

Season series: This is the last of three meetings. The Chicago Blackhawks won the first two, the latest a 2-0 victory at home March 26.

Big story: The Blackhawks have clinched the Presidents' Trophy and home-ice advantage as long as they last in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Calgary Flames are playing their season finale.

"It's the last game, and so I think we want to put in everything we've got," Flames forward Sven Baertschi told the team's website. "At the start of the season we didn't want it to finish right now. We wanted to be a playoff team, but now we want to make sure we finish the right way and we're going to come out hard."

Team Scope:

Flames: Baertschi is one of several young players getting a long look against some of the better teams in the NHL. Friday is the second of a back-to-back that started with a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues.

"It's a good measuring gauge," coach Bob Hartley said. "We saw those kids in a few battles. If they want to be NHL players, and they want to make us a winning team, they need to go back home in the summer and work to get stronger. That's the reason why we [brought up] so many of our young players to give them a taste and also give them a learning lesson."

Roman Cervenka, Mark Cundari and Max Reinhart are other rookies in the lineup, and Hartley said more will be called up to play.

"Those are the tests that we want to give our young players, so we're going to bring in a couple of new guys in the lineup," Hartley said. "It's an evaluation process, it's an audition also for them. But at the same time we evaluate them, and come training camp we're going to be able to measure them to see how much they matured over that experience in the summer and how much they got stronger and faster."

It's possible this could be the last game in the career of Calgary goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. He has not said if he will return to play out the final year of his contract, but speculation has centered on the 36-year-old retiring since he declined to be sent to another team at the NHL Trade Deadline.

Blackhawks: After Chicago started the season with at least one point in 24 consecutive games (21-0-3), it could finish with at least a point in 14 of its last 15 (10-1-2 with two games left).

"We're feeling good, we're happy with where our game is right now," defenseman Brent Seabrook said, according to The Sports Xchange. "We want to use these last few games to get on some sort of a roll here and take that into the playoffs."

The primary concern for the Blackhawks has to be the health of its players, and some could get a night off either in this game or Saturday night at St. Louis. Forward Patrick Sharp returned from a recurring shoulder injury to play Wednesday, but goalie Ray Emery left in the first period with a lower-body problem.

"We'll visit with some options right now," coach Joel Quenneville said after the game Wednesday.

It also is important for the team not to lose its competitive edge, but that has not been a problem to this point.

"To keep playing that way consistently was an amazing thing for our team," captain Jonathan Toews told the Chicago Tribune. "I think we've shown a lot of character. ... We have to use that experience and use that confidence that comes from being the No. 1 team all year and carry it into the playoffs.

"We've got a couple of games left and ... we have to keep sharpening up those little details of our game and be ready for Game 1, whoever that might be next week."

Who's hot: Baertschi has nine points in his seven-game point streak. Cundari had three points in his first two NHL games. … Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane has eight points in his past five games. Forward Michal Handzus has five in his past four.

Injury report: Flames forwards Steve Begin (hand), Paul Byron (hand), Curtis Glencross (knee) and Alex Tanguay (knee), and defensemen Cory Sarich (nose), Derek Smith (lower body) and Dennis Wideman (finger) are out. … In addition to Emery, Blackhawks forward Dave Bolland (groin) is questionable.

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