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Flames season likely “decided in February and March”

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The Calgary Flames home schedule this year has been like a mirage. The closer you get to it, the further away it appears.

A road-heavy start to their schedule, Omicron outbreak and resulting NHL postponements mean the Flames have yet to establish any sort of rhythm on home ice. Nearly halfway through the schedule, they’ve played just 13 games at the Saddledome. Their 5-4-4 record there does not reflect the identity they want to create on home ice.

And while a respectable 13-7-2 record away from home has been helpful in keeping the Calgary Flames afloat in the playoff picture, head coach Darryl Sutter wants to leave nothing to chance. With a .600 points percentage and a handful of games in hand on those above them in the Pacific Division standings, a top-three spot is a statistical likelihood. But what the Flames do now with a home heavy schedule through the months of February and March will go a long way in determining that outcome.

“We can say February, March look like good schedules because they are home-based schedules. You can say that for the first time this year,” the Calgary Flames head coach said Thursday. “Then April is a hard schedule again because there are a lot of road games with travel.

“We want to play well going into the all-star break because I think our season will probably be decided, then, in February and March.”

Seven-game homestand dropped into Olympic window

Seven of the Flames’ eight postponed makeup dates were plopped into the three-week span in February formerly reserved for the Olympics. Sorry Tkachuk Brothers. Those all happen in a row for the longest homestand of the year. A dozen of their 16 games in March are also at the Dome.

“It should allow us to get a little into a rhythm here at home,” said winger Blake Coleman. “It’ll be nice to be home, get acclimated here and get into the routine and get going.”

After a big win over the Florida Panthers at the Saddledome this week, the Calgary Flames head north for Saturday’s Battle of Alberta against an Edmonton Oilers team going through some adversity. But Sutter had them pegged as a top two team in the division and stands by his pre-season assessment. The Oilers are also currently out of the wildcard in the standings but a top-three points percentage.

After the Vegas Golden Knights and the Oilers, it’s a battle for one more spot that guarantees a playoff appearance.

“We’re all fighting for that third spot. You start screwing around with wildcards, then you’re fooling around with the Central Division. That’s not what you want to do because of disparity in games. You screw around with the wildcard, then either you’re in or you’re out,” Sutter said. “I can explain that to the team because I’ve been on the wrong side of that. I’ve been on teams 15 games over .500 and miss (the playoffs) by two points.

“You’re only guaranteed one, two, three. After that, you start flipping coins with that wildcard stuff.”

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