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Trying Flames' season made all the more difficult by loss of Iginla

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers
Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club

EDMONTON - It's been so long since Jarome Iginla missed a Battle of Alberta that only three Flames players know what it's like.

It last happened on Jan. 20, 2007. Alex Tanguay, Mark Giordano and Miikka Kiprusoff are the only ones left that went to battle against the Edmonton Oilers without their fearless leader.

After being dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins late last week, life without No. 12 began on Friday with a 6-4 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"These are difficult times and it's a difficult situation to see a friend go, especially with what Jarome meant to us," said Tanguay. "It's the result of this team not being able put ourselves in the playoffs and not being able to perform to the level that we were expected to perform to. It's a business of winning and we haven't made the playoffs in the two years I've been here.

"We're certainly not in a position now that's going to make it easy for us to get in."

The Flames come into tonight's contest with a 13-16-4 record and sit 14th in the West with 30 points, seven back of the eighth-place Blue Jackets with 15 games to play.

The sting of Iginla's absence will be challenging, if not impossible to overcome this season. As much as it will have an impact on the ice (Iginla had posted nine goals and 22 points this year and was a consistent one-man wrecking crew vs. Edmonton), the Flames are left without a captain.

The mood in their dressing room after the morning skate made that much obvious. It's a group searching for answers.

"You have to be professional," said Tanguay, the Flames' leading scorer with nine goals and 25 points on the year. "You want to make sure that when you get into a game situation, you're helping your team win. It's certainly difficult, but it is what it is and we have to make sure we go about our business.

"We need to try and win a few games and a row and see where we get from there. That's what we're looking for right now."

Tanguay isn't ready to declare the season over, but he's done the math and it's not looking good.

"We know points are important," he said, adding that the Oilers need them, too, in order to keep pace in the ultra-tight Western Conference playoff race. "If you can't get up for the Battle of Alberta, I don't think you're doing the right thing by playing hockey."

Added Head Coach Bob Hartley: "We've got to keep going. We have two big games in three nights against the Oilers and we know what they represent to us. It's a matter of making sure that we come to play and that we stay positive.

"We have a lot of work to do."

The Flames need a winning streak to make up ground, but they haven't been able to string together more than two in a row all season.

No time like the present, right?

"Every game right now is basically the same challenge and on our side, we know that we have to put on quite a streak of wins to enter the playoffs," said Hartley. "That's where we want to start tonight."

The Flames and Oilers have met once this season, back on Jan. 26 at Scotiabank Saddledome when Calgary edged the orange and blue 4-3. Tonight is the Flames' first visit to Rexall Place in over a calendar year.

-- Ryan Dittrick, | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick
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