SUN Hockey Pool

Road to redemption

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

It's no case of amnesia.

More like selective memory.

Bring up the first month of the season all you want -- especially the pair of rough road trips -- and you'll draw some blank looks from the Calgary Flames.

"I don't remember them," Steve Reinprecht said with a smile.

Those first nine road clashes truly are forgettable, seeing as they posted a 2-6-1 record in that span.

Worse yet, recounts captain Jarome Iginla, is how poorly he and his teammates performed, especially in one-sided losses to Minnesota, Detroit and Colorado in the first week of the season.

"Our first road trip was a bad trip. We weren't playing good hockey," Iginla said. "We didn't really know what style we were going to play as a team and didn't adjust quick enough to the rules. It was a bad road trip all the way around.

"The last big road trip, with San Jose and Los Angeles and those (Pacific Division) teams, we were playing better. We were coming, starting to do things better and didn't get the results. You could see we were getting better."

That showed during the team's fantastic homestand in November, which has the Flames back in the thick of things for the Northwest Division crown.

It's a stretch that also includes road wins in both Phoenix and Denver.

"The last two games, we were concentrating on playing the way we played at home," Iginla said. "Skating, being physical and good at our own zone -- those are the three things we have to concentrate on. It's pretty basic and if we do those, it's usually a good result."

Seeing how tight the Western Conference standings are these days, it's paramount the Flames collect some wins on their coming five-game trip which begins tomorrow in Nashville before running through Detroit, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New Jersey.

There has been some major changes on the ice since the club's horrific October road trips.

Team defence was the Achilles heel of the first trip, with 20 goals allowed in those four clashes. The second trip could have been much better than 1-3-1 with a couple of timely goals, considering two losses were one-goal games and another came in a shootout.

Those two elements are just the tip of the iceberg, said Reinprecht.

"I think it's just our overall game," he said. "Our whole October was garbage and we know that. Our road record was terrible but even in our home games we won we weren't playing like we have been lately.

"That's the way we've got to play at home and on the road and the way we have to approach this trip is take our identity on the road."

Unlike some teams, the Flames have no reason to change strategy away from the 'Dome. The ability to go with the same game plan was a reason they skated to a 21-16-2-2 road record in the 2003-04 campaign. (They also collected 10 road wins en route to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals that spring.)

Therefore, Iginla points out, there's no reason for a great discrepancy between home and road records.

"Our style of team should be good for the road, too," he explained. "In a lot of rinks, the home team wants to be physical and try to take it to you but we like that style. The more physical, I think, the better it is for our team.

"There's no reason why we shouldn't have a better road record. There's no excuses."


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