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Game Day: Final Flames March Begins Against Minnesota

The Calgary Flames came away unscathed at the NHL trade deadline and now need a massive finish to have any shot at the playoffs, starting with a game against the Minnesota Wild Saturday night at the Saddledome.

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If Thursday night's loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs was the low point for the Calgary Flames players' moral this season, maybe Friday's NHL trade deadline was a re-set button. 

There were no championship run reinforcements coming from GM Brad Treliving, but he didn't take anything away for future assets, either. 

Treliving stood by his season-long suggestion that this team is capable of more, underperforming as individuals and as a group. He swapped some minor league pieces, turned Brett Ritchie into Nick Ritchie, and gave Connor Mackey new life in Arizona where decent Flames blueline prospects not getting an opportunity in Calgary go to grow. With that, he also upgraded the sixth spot on the blueline with Troy Stecher, who will debut on Saturday alongside Nikita Zadorov on the Flames' bottom pairing. 

The odds are against the Flames catching the Winnipeg Jets for a wildcard spot in the Western Conference, but it's not that much worse than a coin flip with the Jet in a skid and the Flames five points behind. 

The next 20 games, if nothing else, are a chance to audition for next year. Either way, the Calgary Flames have to believe they have a shot at the post-season, until they don't. 

"The whole last week has felt like do-or-die. It's going to continue to be that approach from here on," Flames winger Blake Coleman said this week. "It's not unheard of to go win six, seven games in a row — it happens all the time in this league. You've got to have guys who believe in themselves and each other. Guys are pissed off. Guys are frustrated. It can be a really good, useful tool, or it can be the end of it. 

"If guys channel it the right way and we get on a little roll, then you put the league on notice."

If they somehow accomplish their playoff goal, you have to think the team at the top of the standings would be a little leery of facing them after that final charge. 

Jacob Markstrom was outstanding against the Leafs and starts again against Minny. Calgary Flames coach Darryl Sutter said Markstrom will get the bulk of the work the rest of the way over Dan Vladar. 

Calgary Flame projected lines

Forwards:

Dillon Dube – Elias Lindholm – Tyler Toffoli

Jakob Pelletier – Nazem Kadri – Jonathan Huberdeau

Andrew Mangiapane – Mikael Backlund – Blake Coleman

Milan Lucic – Trevor Lewis – Walker Duehr

Defence:

MacKenzie Weegar – Rasmus Andersson

Noah Hanifin – Chris Tanev

Nikita Zadorov – Troy Stecher

Goaltender:

Jacob Markstrom

Minnesota Wild projected lines

Forwards:

Kirill Kaprizov – Ryan Hartman – Mats Zuccarello

Marcus Johansson – Joel Eriksson Ek – Matt Boldy

Marcus Foligno – Sam Steel – Frederick Gaudreau

Mason Shaw – Connor Dewar – Ryan Reaves

Defence: 

Jake Middleton – Jared Spurgeon

Alex Goligoski – Matt Dumba

Jon Merrill – John Klingberg

Goaltender:

Filip Gustavsson

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