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Game 38 Preview: Flames vs. Islanders - Babchuk Draws In

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Another must-win game.

I used to reserve that sentiment for games against the likes of the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks - games that used to matter as the Flames would battle teams like that for playoff position.

Now, the must-win games are against the bottom feeders. The teams in the standings that they're "supposed" to beat. Over the last 80+ games, the Flames have fared very well against the weaker teams and it's allowed them to stay in the playoff hunt in both seasons. It also provided the illusion of a great team to Flames HOPS, but that's a rant for another day (or an already exhausted rant, at least by me, anyway).

The Flames haven't been a great road team this year, 8-10-2, and they're coming off a very lackluster performance against the Columbus Blue Jackets - but let's hope the game in C-Bus was the team shaking off it's slight Christmas break, priming them for a 60-minute road effort tonight on Long Island.

A win would lift the Flames into a tie for 7th place with the Nashville Predators, pending the outcomes of other Western Conference games.

Projected lines according to Flames.com

Glencross - Jokinen - Iginla

Bourque - Backlund - Stempniak

Comeau - Horak - Byron

Kostopolous - Morrison - Jackman

Bouwmeester - Butler

Babchuk - Smith

Brodie - Sarich

Kiprusoff

- The Flames will win if they play a full 60-minute game. With Babchuk drawing into the lineup for Scott Hannan, expect Kiprusoff to be tested a little more tonight. But, if they can limit the number of PP opportunities to a manageable number, they should be OK. The top line has been on a tear of late - if they can get on the scoresheet again tonight, then I like the Flames chances.

- The Flames will lose if they take the Islanders lightly. The Flames aren't good enough to take anyone lightly. I think Mark Streit is an important player in this one, especially on the PP. If the Isles can get a bit of traffic up front and let Streit fire rockets on net, it'll result in goals.

- Flames are 10-3-3 in their last 16. 6-2-2 in their last 10 and have won 4 in a row.

- The Isles are 3-6-1 in their last 10 and have lost 3 in a row. They sit in last in the Eastern Conference.

- In their only meeting last year, the Isles blasted the Flames 5-2 in Calgary and the Flames went on to lose 4 in a row.