SUN Hockey Pool

Fanning the Flames

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:09 AM ET

And just like that, the Calgary Flames are back in the saddle.

Squeezing out their first two-game win streak of the year, the Flames 2-1 win over Columbus last night demonstrated in many ways why fans should be optimistic the team has turned the corner.

Sure, they're still one game below .500 at 6-7-2 and they've played two or three games more than their closest rivals. But the fact is, all that talk of a slow start is starting to fade following two gritty efforts kick-starting a big four-game homestand.

While naysayers will suggest the ricochets off Marcus Nilson leading up to last night's game-winning goal gave the Flames a lucky win over a bottom-feeder, the truth is his goal-crashing effort was a just reward for a team that hit two posts earlier in the evening.

Tied for ninth in the west, one point back of a playoff spot, the Flames had plenty of reasons to crank the music in celebration last night:

IGGY'S BACK: The man leading the charge with five shots can no longer be accused of being on the skids. Although he failed to extend his seven-game scoring streak, Jarome Iginla was by far the best player on the ice -- driving to the net, shooting with frequency and winning the board battles his club lost so often in the early going. The captain also came up with what turned out to be a game-saving defensive play that prevented Columbus from going up 2-0 late in the second. Leadership at its best.

ROBYN REGEHR RETURNS: Eased back into the lineup for the first time this season, the Flames top defenceman paired up with Jordan Leopold last night, reuniting the club's top pairing. Fitting right in for 18 minutes, not only did he rocket a slapper off the post/crossbar, he also spent time crowding the opposition's crease on the powerplay.

UNITED AS ONE: Darren McCarty and Byron Ritchie, of all people, took turns standing up for teammates, dropping the gloves against considerably larger opponents and holding their own. McCarty gave up three inches and 15 lb. to Jackets super-heavyweight Jody Shelley in a first period tussle that saw Shelley get the decision. Still, the crowd and the team lapped it up, setting the stage for Ritchie to follow suit.

The 5-ft. 10-in., 195-lb. checker took exception to a big hit by Steven Goertzen on Phaneuf and immediately challenged the 6-ft. 2-in., 201-lb. rookie to a fight won by the surprisingly scrappy Flame.

MIIKKA'S MAGIC IS BACK: The only blemish two games into this four-game homestand was a fluky rebound goal he lost sight of last night.

DAZZLING DION: Dion Phaneuf's maturity level is sky high and he still continues to anchor a powerplay that scored in seven straight outings before last night.

PRIME CHUCK: The concern over secondary scoring, while still real, got a jolt the last two games with stellar efforts from Chuck Kobasew and Steven Reinprecht. Kobasew has played like a man possessed the last two outings.

FAVOURABLE SCHEDULE: Now is the perfect time for the Flames to get on a roll as they play host to their divisional nemesis, Vancouver, twice in three nights.


Videos

Photos