SUN Hockey Pool

Curb your enthusiasm

Flames blueliner Andrew Ference celebrates his third-period insurance goal with teammate Rhett...

Flames blueliner Andrew Ference celebrates his third-period insurance goal with teammate Rhett Warrener Saturday against Colorado. Calgary won 5-3 and extended its win streak to six games -- but the Flames have demonstrated some sloppy play, particularly in the defensive zone, in recent contests. (Calgary Sun/Darren Makowichuk)

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:19 PM ET

Coaching is a more difficult job when a club is winning -- or so the adage goes.

Success can breed complacency, which is why the Calgary Flames coaching staff is on the lookout for laziness creeping into the team's play while enjoying its six-game winning streak.

"You don't want the good habits to erode," said assistant coach Rich Preston after yesterday's practice. "That's what you really watch for. Over the course of a long season, there's a lot of games you should win but don't and there's games you shouldn't win but do -- not that we shouldn't have won Saturday night (a 5-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche).

"So, as a coach, it's really important to not just look at a win or loss but why it happened and what we can get better at. It's a big thing for coaches to stay on top of all that in a winning streak."

The Flames certainly have plenty of reasons to feel good about their game heading into tonight's meeting with the Minnesota Wild (7 p.m., Sportsnet, Fan 960).

Having won every game in November, they're in the hunt for top spot in the Northwest Division.

They've won six straight home outings, too, and improved their Saddledome mark to an impressive 7-1-1.

Still, all's not perfect.

Saturday's win wasn't exactly the kind of game the Flames skaters should be crowing about. They came out of the gates slowly, then took advantage of weak Avalanche goaltending to take a 4-0 first-period lead.

The Flames let up in the second period, which ended 4-3, before clamping down again in the final frame.

"It was really about winning the game," Preston said. "You can't take back the first two periods -- what happened happened -- but you've got to move on past that and win one period to win the game.

"That's the only thing to look at then."

Still, there are several issues that need to be addressed before meeting the Wild.

The goals against has taken a beating, with the club surrendering nine goals in the last three games.

A big reason for that lapse is the penalty killing, which has allowed four goals in three outings.

And those are just part of the game easily spotted.

There are also several smaller details that require attention: The number of Flames turnovers at the Colorado blueline Saturday night, unsuccessful clearing attempts in the defensive zone and the missed defensive assignments.

Flames forward Darren McCarty said it's also important to focus on the positives that came out of Saturday night's contest.

"In the second intermission, Darryl (Sutter) brought up a good point -- it doesn't matter if it's 0-0, 1-0, 10-9 going into the third. You've got to play your best third period," McCarty said.

"I thought we played a great third period. We really didn't give them anything.

"It's funny to say but when games are close -- 1-0, 2-1 -- and tight, staying in the right mind frame is easier.

"When you get a big lead like that, you don't let down but ease up a bit. When you do that, you take penalties and let teams back in.

"Sometimes when there's no more room for error, it forces your character to step up."

Next test for that is tonight.


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