|6:00 PM PT7:00 PM MT8:00 PM CT9:00 PM ET2:00 GMT10:00 7:00 PM MST9:00 PM EST6:00 UAE (+1)21:00 ETNaN:� BRT, February 7, 2019
Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary, Alberta Attendance: 18,748
Sharks visit Flames in Pacific showdown
The ramping up has started, and the Calgary Flames can feel it, ahead of Thursday night's visit from the San Jose Sharks.
Now that the All-Star break is well back in the rearview mirror and teams are down to their final 30 games, the elevation in play is noticeable. And while this is happening, Johnny Gaudreau and the Flames find themselves in a spot very few outside their organization anticipated: atop the Western Conference and in the crosshairs of those teams chasing them.
The trick will be to embrace the opportunity, which is how Gaudreau plans to approach it.
"This is the most important part of the season, these last 30 games," Gaudreau told the team's website. "You're still trying to string together wins, other teams are battling, trying to make wild-card spots. It gets harder down the stretch. This when you need your best players to show up, night in and night out."
"I've never been in this position before, me, personally, in the NHL," he added. "I'm looking forward to competing every night and helping this team win. It's gonna be fun."
The next chance for a good time will be Thursday night against San Jose. Calgary (34-14-5, 73 points) has a four-point lead and a game at hand on the Sharks (31-16-7, 69), who sit second in the Pacific Division standings. It may be early February, but this is an important clash which should contain strong emotions.
"We've played a lot of passionate games here recently," said head coach Bill Peters. "The Washington game (a 4-3 loss on Friday) ended up being passionate. Our last game against San Jose (an 8-5 home win on New Year's Eve) was a passionate game. We were talking about the two Minnesota games (in December) being passionate games. Really good vibe in our game Sunday (at Carolina) -- good emotion."
Barring an unbelievable collapse, the Flames are destined to make the Stanley Cup playoffs, so it will be incumbent on everyone to ensure they have the right mindset down the stretch when games become even more intense.
"I think it's circumstances -- desperation for teams for points to get into the playoffs, and also, you want to be playing at a high level coming into the playoffs," Peters said. "You don't want to be building your game in the playoffs. You want to be coming in at a high level, confident in the team game and in your individual game."
Calgary, which is on a 9-1-1 roll, is coming a 4-3 win over Carolina on Sunday and should be well rested before facing a Sharks team that's won three straight (all in overtime) and 10 of its last 13 -- with many of those victories against top teams.
San Jose arrives in Alberta after an emotional 3-2 overtime victory in Winnipeg in which the Sharks dominated the third period to force the extra frame before Joe Pavelski scored a short-handed winner.
Since Calgary beat the Sharks on New Year's Eve, San Jose has racked up victories over the Vegas Golden Knights, the Washington Capitals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Jets, who are one of the best home-ice clubs in the league
"It was a gutsy win," Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer told the San Jose Mercury News after Tuesday's triumph. "This is a tough building. We knew we were going to have to play a good game."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 6, 2019