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Flames' Loss to Chicago, Second Last Day of NHL Action Firms Up Draft Position

After the President's Trophy winning Blackhawks defeated the visiting Flames 3-1 in the final game of their lockout-shortened season, the remainder of the Western conference learned its fate today with just one game left to be played tomorrow afternoon.

Blackhawks fans send their team off to playoffs on a winning note.
Blackhawks fans send their team off to playoffs on a winning note.
Jonathan Daniel

In a game that nobody thought the Flames would win, they didn't. The Chicago Blackhawks dominated on the scoreboard, on the shot-clock, and in almost every other facet of last night's game, but Joey MacDonald kept it close with the Flames down by just one heading into the third period.

Down 2-0 after one on goals by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, Chris Butler scored shorthanded and Ben Street collected his first ever NHL point to cut the Blackhawks' lead in half, but Calgary could not find the tying goal despite out-shooting Chicago 13-12 in the second period. Marcus Kruger scored his fourth goal of the season to restore the Hawks' two goal advantage, and the home side rode a strong third period to 3-1 victory.

Miikka Kiprusoff, Brett Carson, Curtis Glencross, Alex Tanguay, Tim Jackman, Jiri Hudler, Steve Begin, Paul Byron, Anton Babchuk, Max Reinhart and Sven Baertschi were all scratched and/or injured for the Flames' final game of the season. Leland Irving did not see a single minute of ice time during his brief call up to the big club. It'll be interesting to see what becomes of him in the off-season with the Flames' already full stable of goalie prospects, but that constitutes a whole other post in and of itself.

With today's NHL action just about over, there is only one game left to be played tomorrow (the postponed Ottawa/Boston game), and that one bears no meaning for the Flames in the final league standings. With Nashville's loss to Columbus tonight, the Flames officially clinched 13th place in the Western conference. Carolina's loss to Pittsburgh did not help the Flames to improve their draft position, as the two teams are now completely deadlocked. Both have 42 points, both have 19 wins, 25 losses and four overtime losses, and both have also scored 128 goals while allowing 160. Word on the street is that the 'Canes will select fifth overall while the Flames will be choosing sixth, if everything goes according to plan, and the Flames now have just a 6.2% chance of winning Monday's draft lottery. This year's lottery format is different, of course, with all 14 teams that missed out on the playoffs being given a chance to secure that coveted first overall pick.

Central Scouting released its final rankings of the best North American and European skaters and goalies on Wednesday, and depending on how things shake out for the five teams that will likely select ahead of them in the draft, the Flames could still have a shot at the likes of Darnell Nurse, Valeri Nichushkin, Elias Lindholm, or Sean Monahan, all of whom I admittedly know nothing about except that the latter three are all centres, which potentially bodes well for the Flames if they do indeed decide to take that route, which most would argue they probably should. Perhaps Feaster has a deal up his sleeve to package his three first round picks in this draft (the Flames solidified their acquisition of St. Louis' first rounder when they clinched a playoff spot) in exchange for a top three choice. Either way, the Flames could have their hands on a good player come June, but they haven't exactly been successful choosing sixth overall in the past. Hopefully history does not repeat itself.