CALGARY – Playoff intrigue permeates Friday’s game between the Calgary Stampeders and visiting Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

With three games remaining in the CFL’s regular season, the Stampeders and B.C. Lions (both 10-5) are neck and neck down the stretch for second in the West Division and the right to host the division semifinal.

Hamilton (5-10) needs to get ahead of the Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-10) to avoid losing an East Division playoff spot to a crossover team from the West.

“It’s not technically like playoff football yet, but it also kind of is,” Hamilton quarterback Dane Evans said Thursday in Hamilton.

“Everybody on our team knows what time it is, everybody on their team knows what time it is, so I think you’ll see a pretty good fight this whole game from both sides.”

The Tiger-Cats aren’t mathematically out of the running for second in the East either, but would need a collapse by the Montreal Alouettes (7-8) to get there.

Hamilton lost to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the last two Grey Cup games in 2019 and 2021.

Coming off an 18-14 victory at home over the Roughriders last week, the Ticats have yet to win on the road or string together two wins in a row this season.

“They’re going to be desperate,” Stampeders quarterback Jake Maier observed. “They’re super-well coached and they have an identity and they’ve been in the Grey Cup the last two seasons, man, so you’ve got to respect that regardless of where they’re at in their season and their record.

“We’ve got to start playing championship-level football though. We’ve got six weeks to prove we’re a championship-calibre team and that’s all our focus is right now. Weather’s getting colder, games are getting more intense, so we’re excited.”

Winnipeg (14-2) has already locked in the West final at home. The Lions face the defending champions twice in their remaining three games with the other game against the Edmonton Elks.

B.C. took the season series from Calgary 2-1 and would be the higher playoff seed in the event of a tie.

Calgary is coming off a bye week following a 29-2 win over the visiting Toronto Argonauts, but it wasn’t enough time to get 1,000-yard receiver Malik Henry (ankle) back into the lineup.

Shawn Bane Jr., who’s had limited game reps this season, draws in at wideout. He compiled 129 yards on four receptions, including an 80-yard catch, in Calgary’s 22-19 win in Toronto on Aug. 20.

“I practise like a game,” Bane said. “We’re always competing against each other, like who can get open the most and who can catch the most touchdowns. Mini-competitions within practice, that just keeps everybody sharp.

“I’m always ready. When an opportunity presents itself, I try to be that guy you can depend on. Don’t make it too big, don’t make it too little. Just be even keel.”

Hamilton not only needs a win in Calgary, but also favours from the Stampeders who close out the regular season with a home-and-home against Saskatchewan.

The Tiger-Cats finish with the same against the Ottawa Redblacks (4-11), who have yet to be eliminated from the East’s playoff picture just two points back of Hamilton.

“The biggest thing is we’ve got to keep winning,” Evans said. “It makes it a little bit easier to not worry about who beat who, or who lost to who.”

Hamilton running back Wes Hills and defensive end Malik Carney were impact players in a comeback win over the Roughriders last week when the Tiger-Cats trailed 14-9 at halftime. Hills rushed for 132 yards and Carney posted a three-sack game.

Tiger-Cats linebacker Simoni Lawrence comes off the injured list (knee) to play Friday as does wide receiver Steven Dunbar Jr., who sat out the game against Saskatchewan.

Calgary’s Hugh Thornton draws in at left tackle for Joshua Coker (arm).

The Stampeders won a wild one in Hamilton back on June 18, when Calgary erased a 24-point deficit in a 33-30 overtime victory.

Rene Paredes kicked a game-tying 39-yard field goal as regulation time expired and another 35-yarder in OT to beat the Ticats.

“Both of us are third in our conference. If you think about it, that’s an interesting dynamic, but I know they can play,” observed Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson. “They’ve got good players, they’re fast, they’re physical.

“This year hasn’t quite worked for them, but they know they can beat anybody and we’ve got to go out there and play a damn good game to win.”