March 09 2011 06:11PM
So Brad Richards is back?
Not that Dallas wasn't winning without Brad Richards in the lineup, but his return tonight could spell serious trouble for the Calgary Flames and, indeed, the rest of the Western Conference.
Calgary is currently tied with the Stars at 79 points but without the benefits of Dallas' two games in hand. Having a guy like Brad Richards come back tonight of all nights can't help Calgary give itself even a little bit of breathing room in this sardine can of a Western Conference.
Currently, both teams are just two points away from not making the playoffs at all — even a one-game losing streak, apparently, could be a fatal mistake — and one point from a home-ice spot.
Somehow, the West has tightened in the last few days. It's almost unfathomable that the difference is that minute, but here we are.
With this in mind, a win here tonight is obviously imperative. Hell, a win from here on out is imperative. With the number of three-point games kicking around the West these days, all teams not named Vancouver will pretty much have to take at least a point from their remaining 12-15 games to be absolutely assured a playoff spot. Not even Detroit is especially safe at the top of their division, with resurgent Chicago breathing down their necks.
This is not unlike those old action movies where the hero and villain wind up chasing each other on a sheer mountainside with an area no bigger than a shoe's width to stand on. One misstep, and it's death.
As a result of their place in the standings, both teams are not surprisingly in very similar positions. Both have won two in a row, though Dallas is overcoming a dead run suffered in February which saw it crumble from what once appeared to be a very credible and defensible home-ice position.
So are these two teams still heading in opposite directions? Hopefully for the Flames, the answer is yes, but one never knows, and a regulation win here will mean a four-point swing they can ill afford to surrender.