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Flames - The Clock Is Ticking

By Aakash Gulati

With the trade deadline approaching and more than half the season done, Flames find themselves 3 points out of a playoff spot. With a favorable travel schedule though not a favorable opposition schedule, flames are attempting to reach the playoffs for the first time in 3 seasons. Feaster made it clear, by picking up Cammalleri that the flames are looking at going for it this season. For the Flames to make it, other than the team playing well to end the season, how the teams above and below the Flames in the standing play will also determine their fate.

Phoenix Coyotes

The team without a superstar, the coyotes have had a solid few seasons with Dave Tippet behind the bench. Lately in a constant dilemma on the future of the franchise, the team has become a contender for the spots in the playoffs. With Tippet at the helm, the team has made the playoffs twice in a row. This year's team is quite different from the last in two in the fact that, they probably have gotten used to this constant swirling of ownership issues. So much so to the point that it might not become the source of a drive any longer. Phoenix sits 8th in the west though with 63 points. Flames have 3 games left against Phoenix which will be crucial to both teams for the run to the postseason.

Dallas Stars

A team that has seen the return of many injured players over the last little bit, I consider the Stars to be the biggest threat to the flames hopes of making it to the dance. Having one of the better goalies in the last couple of seasons in net in the form of Lehtonen, Stars have a very capable top six and a strong defence as well. The team has played one less games than the flames and one less point. They do own the tie-breaker due to more wins. The flames yet have to play them this season and much like the Phoenix games, these pacific battles will have a strong impact on the final standings.

Minnesota Wild

The team that led the northwest till December, finds itself languishing out of a playoff spot. Following a torrid start to the season, the wild have been tumbling down for the last few months and injuries to key players such as Koivu, Setoguchi, PM Bouchard have definitely not helped. Their powerplay has also left a lot to be desired. A team that was in top echelon of powerplay percentage the past few years,losing Burns in the off-season and Zidlicky having a horrible year as well have hurt them. At the rate the Wild have been going, they might end up drafting top 5 at the end of the season.

Colorado Avalanche

An interesting team in the whole equation, the Aves have been inconsistent this season. Their offseason trade of bringing in Varlamov has not panned out yet but they have been lucky with the resurgence of Giguere who is having his best year since 07-08. The teams fate rests on if Giguere can keep up his game and on the return of Duchene.

Other notes

- With Backlund slated to miss 4-6 weeks and joining Glencross, Stempniak, Moss, Smith and Jones in the injured list, we might see Feaster make a depth move. The Morrison trade hurts us now with all those injuries

- Flames should consider bringing in Nash or Parise. They both have the potential to become Franchise players and can replace an aging Iginla. The price for Nash will be darn high, but Parise will be a risk as well due to him being a pending free agent.

- Babchuk should be played for a few games and the flames should rest Sarich/Hannan from time to time. Having a healthy Babchuk waiting to play will not be good if the Flames are hit with injury since Babchuk will be rusty coming in.

- Went to check out the Heat game at the dome and the players who stood out to be in that one sided game were Horak and Clay Wilson. Horak was there all over the ice.

- PL Leblonde is as bad a goon as there can be (and not in a good way). He dropped the mitts against Oiler's prospect Alex Plante in the Barons-Heat game. He won the fight but ended up getting in a freebie when Plante was clearly out of it and on the ice. He did end up getting 10 extra minutes in addition to the fighting major but there is no place in this game for such antics.

- Anaheim's play of late reminds of the Flames last season push. Good for the ducks and their fans but it is too little too late.

The Flames are in it till the end, and with the competition that they have for the 8th spot, they do have a chance of making it. The Flames alone can knock themselves out and their games against the Stars and Coyotes are going to be crucial.

With our fingers crossed, jerseys on and emotions at check, we cheer on our boys in red.

Follow me @FlamesGulati

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