That losing feeling

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:46 PM ET

COLUMBUS -- Amazing the difference a day makes.

On Wednesday, the Calgary Flames were embarking on their quest for glory.

Depending on what circles you ran in, the ring fittings were just a matter of time.

Rest assured, that wasn't the thought process inside the Flames dressing room but there was an air of confidence heading into the season-opening tilt in Minnesota.

A mere 24 hours later, following a 6-3 loss to the Wild, that aura was replaced by a much more sombre tone.

It was superceded by a mood summed up best by Steve Reinprecht, whose normally cheerful nature was long gone and supplanted by a more businesslike appearance as the team was preparing for tonight's meeting with the Columbus Blue Jackets (5 p.m., Sportsnet, FAN 960).

"Just not happy by the way I played," Reinprecht stated.

He's not alone with that form of self-assessment.

At least he shouldn't be.

Player one through 19 (backup goalie Philippe Sauve doesn't deserve any blame) didn't do near enough as they were outclassed, outskated and outperformed to a man by a Wild club that likely won't be good enough to reach the playoff party.

Losses happen but the real shocker was the way the Flames came out of the gates. Having lost a season due to the lockout, you'd think they would have been racing like thoroughbreds.

Instead, it was more like a bunch of run-down quarter-horses ready for pasture.

"There is no explanation," Reinprecht said. "Bad game, that's really all you can say. It's a game you want to forget right away."

Be certain GM/head coach Darryl Sutter expects his charges to keep some aspects in the memory bank.

"Look at the first half of the game, we made two or three bad pinches and it cost us odd-man situations," Sutter said. "We talked about not taking penalties and backchecking. Well, Reinprecht and (Chris) Simon both were backchecking penalties and it's the hockey gods, both end up in your net. We get momentum to make it 4-3, then (Shean) Donovan takes a dumb penalty that takes the momentum away, even though we kill it.

"For the things we did -- our resolve and our character got us back to 4-3 -- to get it taken away is unacceptable."

Immediately after the opener, Sutter's criticism was aimed hardest at Reinprecht and his linemates, Simon and Chuck Kobasew. There was no softening of that stance after yesterday's practice.

"I was really critical of Reinprecht's line but they were responsible for four goals against," Sutter said. "You're not going to win games because of that. Two of them were sitting in the penalty box for goals and they were on the ice for two of them.

"I didn't think we were playing that poorly. It might have been a poor coaching decision to play the one line but it's early and you need to get that line rolling. But, by the third period, I couldn't play them anymore."

There is good news, despite any thoughts of doom and gloom.

First off, it was only the first game of the season, an 82-engagement marathon before playoff positions are shaken down.

Secondly, the chance to get back on the horse comes right away.

Therefore, redemption can be just around the corner for Reinprecht and his teammates.

"You learn from it and look forward to the next one," he said. "There's a lot of games, just look forward to the next one."

Besides, Sutter is emphatic the team he built won't fade to oblivion.

"I always get the sense whenever we lose a game we've lost 82 in a row but that's not my take on it," he said. "I base it on how you play. I know if you have a good enough team and are doing things right, eventually you do win."


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