Hufnagel knows no skid row

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:15 AM ET

There's a first time for everything, and the Calgary Stampeders are staring at one they would rather avoid.

In the John Hufnagel tenure as GM and head coach, the Stamps have never had a three-game losing streak.

Suddenly, they are on the brink of such an unprecedented slide with the defending Grey Cup champions in town to play them Friday night at McMahon Stadium (7 p.m., TSN, QR77).

But whenever the Stamps suffered through two defeats under Hufnagel's leadership, they have halted the skid.

In fact, they have only lost twice in a row once -- at the start of 2008 -- with one stretch of a loss and a tie late last season.

"It's praise to what coach Huf does," said Stamps linebacker Keon Raymond. "He comes out and let us know you will have troubles, but you need to respond and reload. Those are his main words.

"You aren't going to be perfect. When was the last team that went perfect? The 1972 (NFL's Miami) Dolphins?

"This is a competitive league, and you need to able to come out of a slump and reload. You need to play hard to make it happen."

On paper, the Alouettes are a much better opponent than the B.C. Lions, the team that whipped the Stamps 29-10 less than a week ago.

But the Lions also upset the Als on their home turf, although it came with veteran quarterback Anthony Calvillo out due to a rib injury and Chris Leak making his first CFL start at QB.

The Stamps were with-out receiver Nik Lewis Saturday night, and the absence was felt hard. Lewis may have actually improved his standing as one of the more valuable players in the CFL as the Stamps offence crumbled without him. They welcome him back Friday.

"I've said time and again he's the best in this game, and there's a reason I say that," said Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris. "He's asked to do so much, but when you look at the stats, he's always up there.

"We didn't have that spark last week, but that won't be a problem this week."

The two worst losses in Hufnagel's tenure as head coach were both by 21 points. The first was the 2008 Labour Day game, when Burris was injured in the second quarter and the Edmonton Eskimos beat the Stamps 37-16.

The second was last year's Thanksgiving matchup in Montreal, where the Alouettes out-classed the Stamps to the tune of 32-11.

Both times, the Stamps came back with great efforts the following week, so we should expect the same thing from Hufnagel's charges Friday.

"We look forward to getting back out there," Burris said. "Momma said there would be days like this, but it's all about how you come back.

"This team plays with a lot of pride, and we play to win," Burris Last week was a flat game. We learn from that.

"This is big for us. We're right there at nine wins. We want to stay in our place and keep being the best team in this league. This is huge for us to lock up first place in the West (Division)."

The Alouettes got into a shootout last week with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and it took a third-down toss from Calvillo to Brian Bratton to steal a 44-40 win.

The Stampeders aren't looking at how the Als defence allowed so many points as much as knowing they will rebound, too.

And the fact the Stampeders haven't had one of those three-game losing skids means nothing to the defending Grey Cup champions.

"I guarantee you that Montreal isn't coming in here thinking, 'They have a two-game losing streak, so we have to let them win,' " said Stamps running back Joffrey Reynolds.

"This week, it's a home game, and we feel we didn't have a good showing last week.

"For the psyche of the team and the success we've had -- and now we're on the stretch-run playing good teams -- this will be a tell-tale of what type of team we have."

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