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Sharks, Flames fight for positioning in tight West race

by Aaron Vickers

SHARKS (27-17-7) at FLAMES (28-20-3)


CALGARY -- A tight grouping in the Western Conference has the Calgary Flames hoping for fewer games going beyond regulation.

Only two points separate the Flames and San Jose Sharks for second place in the Pacific Division. The Colorado Avalanche trail the Flames by four points for the second Western Conference wild-card spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings are each five points behind Calgary.

It's put a premium on wins and has made the Flames wary of three-point outings.

"My wife is at the store right now getting me a remote control," said Flames coach Bob Hartley, whose Flames welcome the Sharks to Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday. "I broke last night's remote when I saw Colorado tied [against Dallas] and Vancouver tied (against the Winnipeg Jets]. That's the way it is but at the same time for too many years we were standing here praying every night to get help. Obviously right now we don't deny that any help we can get. We'll take it but we're in a situation where we dictate our own fate.

"That's my message to the guys. Have fun with this. Go. Whatever will happen, whether we're going to make it or we're going to be short a few points, we're going to be able to look at our fans, we're going to look everyone right in the eyes and say we left everything on the table. That's our mindset."

But seeing opponents pile up points in overtime or shootout losses still has a sting.

It's left forward Mikael Backlund rooting for regulation results.

"Disappointment," said Backlund, making his return to the lineup after a one-game absence because of illness. "You wish one team was taking two points and that would've been it but it is what it is. We can only control ourselves. It's a cliché but it's true.

"I watched the app last night and Dallas was up 2-1 with two minutes left. I was hoping they'd keep the score. It was tough. I didn't know who to hope for because they're both right behind us but someone winning in regulation would've been great. It is what it is."

Calgary could jump ahead of San Jose and into second in the Pacific with a win in regulation Wednesday. San Jose is fixed on taking two points in Calgary regardless of how long it takes.

"Right now, two points is the main thing, obviously," said Sharks goaltender Alex Stalock, who is expected to start. "Obviously you want to do that every night, win in regulation. It's not an easy League to get two points every night.

"Our focus is to get two any way, whether it's overtime or a shootout. We need the two points. If it's two and the other team ends up with zero that's great."

Currently in the playoff picture, San Jose isn't at the stage of scoreboard watching, either.

"This group, we know what we need to do," Stalock said. "We worry about ourselves. If we play the right way we'll hopefully find ourselves in the playoffs. It's about the guys we have in here and if we stick to the way we can play it shouldn't be an issue."

Here are the projected lineups:


Melker KarlssonJoe ThorntonJoe Pavelski

Patrick MarleauLogan CoutureMatt Nieto

Tomas HertlJames SheppardBarclay Goodrow

John ScottAndrew DesjardinsTyler Kennedy

Marc-Edouard VlasicBrent Burns

Brenden DillonMatt Tennyson

Matt IrwinScott Hannan

Alex Stalock

Antti Niemi

Scratched: Mirco Mueller, Daniil Tarasov

Injured: Raffi Torres (knee), Mike Brown (lower body), Tommy Wingels (hand), Justin Braun (hand), Tye McGinn (upper body)


Johnny GaudreauSean MonahanJiri Hudler

Lance BoumaMikael BacklundDavid Jones

Mason RaymondJosh JoorisJoe Colborne

Brandon BolligMatt StajanPaul Byron

Mark GiordanoTJ Brodie

Kris RussellDennis Wideman

Raphael DiazDeryk Engelland

Jonas Hiller

Karri Ramo

Scratched: Sven Baertschi, Corey Potter, Markus Granlund

Injured: Sam Bennett (shoulder surgery), Curtis Glencross (lower body), Ladislav Smid (upper body), David Wolf (lower body)

Status report: Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he's waiting for updates on a few players before finalizing his lineup against the Flames but could go with the same roster used Monday against the Edmonton Oilers. …Hiller is expected to make his fifth straight start for Calgary.

Who's hot: Thornton has two goals and eight assists during a five game point scoring streak. … Hiller has allowed two or fewer goals in each of his past four starts. Monahan has six goals and eight points in his past eight games.

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