The game-plan is simple for the Calgary Flames—win, and get in.
After a slow start out of the gate, Jay Feaster's team has been outside the top eight in the Western Conference for most of the year. But with five games remaining in the 2011-12 season, Calgary remains in control of its own fate.
If the Flames—who haven't participated in the postseason since 2009—can go undefeated to close out their schedule, they will clinch one of the final playoff spots that are realistically up for grabs in the West.
Currently in 11th place, they will have to leapfrog three teams to reach their goal—a difficult (but not impossible) task.
"We're going to give it our all, there's no holding back," Alex Tanguay said. "We want to be in. We've worked so hard for the past two months, played some very good hockey. Haven't been as lucky as we'd like to be, but maybe this luck will come our way the last few games."
After piecing together an impressive five-game win streak earlier in March, the Flames' playoff hopes took a major hit immediately thereafter, losing each of their next five.
“These last five games, we've went into them knowing how big each game is, we know where the standings are, and they haven't turned out well for us, obviously," captain Jerome Iginla said. "Now we just go play.
"We know the time is running out and we need to get ourselves on a roll. We think it's going to turn."
Thanks to their recent slide, the playoffs will be at stake every time Calgary hits the ice over the next couple of weeks, a pressure-packed stretch that began on Monday night.
With the season on the line, Mike Cammalleri and his teammates kept the flame alive against the Dallas Stars, defeating their conference rival 5-4—their first victory since March 15.
“Probably a lot of people still counting us out,” said Cammallerri after the game, who had a goal and two assists. “Maybe that allows you to drop your shoulders a bit and play your game and maybe relieve some pressure that way. I don’t think squeezing our stick or crunching it is going to enable us to win games.’’
With Monday in the rearview mirror, the Flames will now look ahead to facing the Lost Angeles Kings on Wednesday.
"Let’s just focus on ourselves," head coach Brent Sutter said. “We are in this together and we know there is no easy task here, but we know it’s something that we can accomplish if we are really focused and stick together.”
While the odds are certainly stacked against them, the Flames' remaining schedule is somewhat favorable.
Even though they face quality competition (which includes two games against Vancouver), Calgary will play four of its final five games in the comfortable confines of the Scotiabank Saddledome, where they have racked up a 21-10-6 record this year.
They will play just one more game on the road, where they have won only 14 of 40 contests in '11-'12.
Andrew Hirsh is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @andrewhirsh
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