Flames looking for strong finish

The Calgary Flames have destiny in their own hands heading into the final week of the regular season.

Dion Phaneuf and the Calgary Flames have struggled down the stretch

Dion Phaneuf and the Calgary Flames have struggled down the stretch

CALGARY — The Calgary Flames have destiny in their own hands heading into the final week of the regular season.

If they can break out of their slump and string together a season-ending win streak, they’ll earn home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

“We got some huge help from Edmonton last night,” said forward Craig Conroy, referring to the Oilers 5-3 win over Vancouver. “The division’s still up for grabs, playoff spots are still up for grabs.”

With four games left to play, the Flames (44-28-6) and the Canucks (42-24-11) are tied for top spot in the Northwest Division with 94 points each.

The Canucks play the struggling Colorado Avalanche at home on Sunday night, while the Flames host the Los Angeles Kings on Monday before travelling to Vancouver the next night to face their western rivals in one of the most important games of the season.

“Our next goal is working at winning the division and giving ourselves the best chance in the playoffs,” said Calgary captain Jarome Iginla. “There are a lot of things that are positive and it’s going to be a fun week.

“It’s almost like a mini playoff before the playoffs. We’re tied with Vancouver. Both teams have it within their control and it’s going to be who takes it. I’m looking forward to it.”

It won’t be an easy task for the Flames, who are coming off a 4-0 road loss to the Minnesota Wild on Friday night. Calgary has been shut out in three of their past six games because of a sputtering offence.

“It’s been a tough stretch but we feel like we’re on the way up and we’re about ready to break out here,” Iginla said.

Michael Cammalleri, who leads the Flames with 36 goals, said the Flames know the importance of every game being played at this time of the season.

“At this point, they’re all just big games and they’re all two big points and they basically will all have some sort of impact on how things shape up once the standings area all set up,” said Cammalleri, who only has two goals in the past 14 games and hasn’t bulged the twine for six straight contests. “Obviously the puck hasn’t gone in lately for me; for some other guys.”

Cammalleri added that he has seen positive signs that the Flames will start putting the puck in the net once again.

“I feel like any night they’ll start pouring in for us and it’s all forgotten,” he said. “I think we’ve done a good job to create chances still. I like the way we’ve played at certain times, offensively. For whatever reason, we haven’t put (the puck) in.”

Iginla agreed with his teammate that the Flames definitely need to find their scoring touch around the net heading into the post-season.

“For the most part this year, we’ve been a high-scoring team,” said Iginla, who has two goals in his past three games to give him 33 this season. “We’ve been one of the highest scoring teams in the conference and in the league. A big part of our success is that we’ve been able to have different guys who have gotten hot for us and contributed at different times.

“We’ve all been in a stretch where we’ve all just been not rolling together. There’s no doubt in here that we have the goals and I think we’re going to break out. It’s just a matter of time.”

The Flames have also been battling a rash of injuries lately. After practice on Sunday, coach Mike Keenan said that defencemen Robyn Regehr, Cory Sarich and Adrian Aucoin are all still out of the lineup day-to-day with undisclosed injuries.

Blue-liners Matt Pelech and John Negrin made their National Hockey League debuts for the Flames on Friday against the Wild, and either or both could find themselves back in the lineup again on Monday depending on Aucoin’s status.

“It’s an 82-game marathon,” he said. “You get to stop the marathon after 82 games, get into the starting blocks and you get to run the 100-yard dash. That’s your reward.”

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