The Flames will try to close the gap on the final playoff spot in the Western Conference on Wednesday night when they host the Coyotes.
Calgary (38-29-9) has reached the playoffs for five consecutive seasons. That run is in jeopardy with the Flames sitting in ninth place in the West, four points back of eighth-place Colorado with six games remaining in the regular season. Captain Jarome Iginla(notes) already declared they’ll have to “run the table” in order to qualify for the postseason.
“We’re all talking about that we want to be in the playoffs,” said Iginla, the team leader with 32 goals and 69 points. “But we’ve got to go earn it and earn a chance. Now, we’re in position where we’re just trying to earn a chance and see what other teams do.”
Calgary improved its chances Sunday, getting goals from five players in a surprising 5-3 win at NHL-leading Washington.
The Flames will now attempt to gain a split of their season series with the Coyotes (47-24-6) before a highly anticipated road game against the Avalanche on Friday. Colorado hosts Anaheim before the Friday matchup that could be key to the playoff race.
“We want to get Phoenix going and we want to win that one and put ourselves in a great spot to … go into Colorado and have an opportunity to tie them,” center Craig Conroy(notes) told the Flames’ official Web site. “That’s all we can ask for. But it starts with Phoenix.”
Calgary could use some increased production from Iginla, who has four assists during a five-game goal drought. The All-Star right wing, the franchise’s all-time leader with 441 goals and 920 points, has found the net only once in 10 games and is coming under scrutiny, but coach Brent Sutter came to his defense.
“It’s about how we play as a team,” Sutter said. “Yes, Jarome Iginla can score goals but we need Jarome Iginla to be a real good, all-around player for us. We need everybody else to be too. There’s more to the game than scoring goals.”
Iginla has just three assists in his last six games against Phoenix. Calgary has gone 2-3-1 in those games, dropping two of three matchups this season.
The Coyotes have already clinched their first playoff appearance since 2002, and their 100 points are a franchise record. Phoenix is four points behind West-leading San Jose with five games left, as it chases its first division and conference titles in team history.
The Coyotes, though, failed to close the gap on the Sharks on Tuesday, losing 4-1 at Vancouver to fall for just the third time in 13 games (10-2-1). They conclude the regular season at San Jose on April 10.
Lee Stempniak(notes) was a major reason for Phoenix’s recent surge in the standings. The right wing, acquired in a trade from Toronto on March 3, had 12 goals in 12 games before being held off the scoresheet by the Canucks.
Stempniak’s 26 combined goals with the Coyotes and Maple Leafs this season are just one fewer than his career high, set with St. Louis in 2006-07. He has five goals in 15 career games against Calgary, but none in his last five.