Flames try to keep flickering, Oilers try to clinch again

NHL Hockey

Now, do it again. That’s the quest for the visiting Calgary Flames as they look to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive Saturday when they face the Edmonton Oilers for the 10th and final time this season.

While the second-place Oilers (29-17-2, 60 points) are in a strong position to reach the postseason, the Flames (22-24-3, 47 points) are gamely trying to catch the Montreal Canadiens for the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division.

Calgary claimed a crucial 3-1 win over the Oilers on Thursday, and another Battle of Alberta victory would go a long way toward keeping its playoff dream reachable.

“We’re not in the position that we want to be in. We still aren’t, even after the win,” Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk said Thursday. “We’re unfortunately doing a little bit of scoreboard watching as well.

“It’s a two-team race with us and Montreal ahead of us. … All we can do is keep winning and hope that they lose some to make this very interesting down the stretch.”

The Flames, who have won three of their last four games and six of their last nine, have seven games remaining on the schedule — one each against the Oilers, Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators, followed by a four-game season-ending stretch against the last-place Vancouver Canucks.

Calgary was four points behind Montreal through Thursday’s games. Friday, the Canadiens faced third-place Winnipeg, the first of their six games against the top three teams in the division down the stretch.

Although Edmonton has beaten the Flames in five of the nine meetings this season, Calgary has won the last two games, and kept Oilers the NHL’s leading pair of point producers — Connor McDavid (56) and Leon Draisaitl (43) off the scoresheet in both games.

“They shortened their bench so that (Draisaitl and McDavid) are out there so much together in the last half of the game, so they’re hard to play against,” Calgary coach Darryl Sutter said. “I think our defense did a good job.

“So, to get out of it where we were in this building where it’s been tough for our team to win, you take the win and move on.”

Edmonton, which sits second in the division, is still on an 11-4-2 run and can punch its playoff ticket against the Flames.

Thursday’s loss to Calgary didn’t distress the Oilers too much, coming on the second half of clashes on back-to-back nights and following an emotional road win in Winnipeg Jets.

“We were sloppy,” coach Dave Tippett said. “Sloppy with the puck and turned a lot of pucks over. We had some chances and didn’t bury them.

“They got a lead and we pushed a bit but not enough,” Tippett went on. “You could tell fatigue was a factor in our game. We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be. We’ll get some rest and be back at it on Saturday. We’ll be ready to go.”

That was a familiar refrain from the team retains an outside chance to claim top spot in the division.

“These are playoff-style games,” said defenseman Ethan Bear. “When you’re playing a team that’s fighting for their lives, they’re putting everything on the line and we have to match that, bring that intensity. Down the line, that’s going to help us grow to be a good playoff team.

“You want to win every game. Especially a Battle of Alberta game, those are big. They’re hard and heavy games and we want to show we can compete and win those games. It’s important. I think we look to next game, try to rebound and play a lot harder.”

–Field Level Media

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