Sharks-Flames Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 13, 2012
Ten points separated the Calgary Flames from the San Jose Sharks at the beginning of February, though Calgary's recent surge has coincided with San Jose's swoon to close the gap. The Flames host the Sharks in a crucial Western Conference matchup Tuesday night with both teams looking to get back into the playoff picture. Calgary (32-25-12) has won three straight games including Sunday's 4-3 victory over Minnesota, and has earned at least a point in 15 of 18 contests since Feb. 3. The Flames are currently 10th in the West, two points behind eighth-place Colorado. San Jose, meanwhile, has gone 5-11-3 since Feb. 3, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division and all the way down to ninth in the conference, one point ahead of Calgary. The Sharks (34-25-9) were able to halt a five-game losing streak with a 3-2 win at Edmonton on Monday, but the concern of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2003 remains. Calgary coach Brent Sutter said he's aware of how the other teams in the crowded playoff chase have performed recently, though he said his club needs to keep the focus on itself. "The only thing you can do is worry about yourselves and take care of what you need to do," Sutter said. "You will get some help along the way because teams do play each other, but your focus has to be yourself and not get caught up in where you are in the standings right now." A regulation victory over the Sharks would not only move the Flames - who haven't won a playoff series since reaching the Stanley Cup finals in 2004 - into a tie for one of the final postseason spots, but also would put San Jose in their rear view mirror for the time being. Curtis Glencross has been a major reason for Calgary's surge, scoring a goal for the seventh straight game Sunday. That streak is the longest in the NHL this season, and he also has three assists in that stretch. "He's making the best of the opportunities he's getting," Sutter said. "He's contributing offensively, but he's doing other things for us too that are very important. He's been a solid all-around player for us." Logan Couture helped provide a much-needed spark for San Jose on Monday, scoring the tiebreaking goal in the third period. Joe Thornton added an assist for the Sharks, who had lost eight of their previous nine road games. "We needed this really bad," Thornton said. "We're struggling right now and to come in here and get a big win, every game is so important for us. The playoffs have already started for us. It was just a huge two points for us. "Hopefully this gives some guys some confidence." Couture scored and Thornton added two assists in the most recent meeting with the Flames on Jan. 8 at San Jose, but Olli Jokinen's hat trick and Jarome Iginla's goal and assist helped Calgary win, ending a five-game skid in the series. Iginla and Jokinen also scored Sunday, and Iginla has six goals and five assists during a six-game point streak. Including postseason, Thornton has only three assists in his last eight games at Calgary.
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