NHL: Western Playoff Contenders Clash In Calgary

Joe LaTengo | Tue. Mar 13 2012, 02:03 pm

Written off by some only a few weeks ago, the Calgary Flames have managed to get themselves back into the hunt for a postseason position. The San Jose Sharks, on the other hand, have been playing recently like they’ve been looking forward to golfing in April.

So far in March 2012, the Sharks had played five games and lost every one (getting a “loser point” in two of them) until Monday, when they edged the lowly Oilers 3-2 without needing overtime. At one point they were the top team in the Pacific division, but since that high point it’s been a long decline for them.

Once considered a lock for the playoffs, the Sharks have compiled a toothless 5-11-3 record since Feb. 3. Their victory in Edmonton only seems to underscore how far they’ve fallen, giving up the lead twice on only 22 shots faced.

The red-hot Flames, meanwhile, have been victorious in their last three games. Curtis Glencross has come all the way back from a knee injury (which he suffered, ironically, in San Jose on Jan. 17) to register a seven-game scoring streak, longest in the league this season. If he scores against San Jose, Glencross will establish a new team mark in that regard, passing Kent Nilsson and Gary Roberts.

They also appreciate the energy they’ve received from the Saddledome faithful during wins against the Canadiens and the Jets. They ought to get more of that support, as eight of their final 13 games are at home.

For the visitors, there is some question as to whether Antti Niemi or Thomas Greiss will get the start in Calgary. Whoever is tapped on the shoulder to go between the pipes, it shouldn’t be an easy ride. The Flames have averaged more than 3.5 goals per game this month, while the Sharks’ average has been a paltry 1.5 scores; they have also been shut out twice (at home to Buffalo 1-0 on the 1st, and the road in Phoenix 3-0 on the 10th).

Even though the NHL betting line favors the Sharks for this game, this could be a good time for Calgary to take advantage of a San Jose team who, even though they won on Monday, appear to be on their last legs. A victory would certainly show just how badly the winner wants to play after the conclusion of the regular season.