SUN Hockey Pool

Red-light district

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:32 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- Last time Tony Amonte skated in an Eastern Conference rink, it was the old NHL.

Which meant most of his games were slow and plodding, especially compared to the run-and-gun contests in the Western Conference.

Funny how things have changed coming out of the lockout.

Having played one game this season against an Eastern squad -- a 3-2 win over Pittsburgh Saturday night -- and having watched Eastern squads on TV, Amonte is amazed how the tables have turned.

"I can't believe how playing against Pittsburgh, it seemed so wide open. It used to be the other way," Amonte said.

Before last night's action, both conferences have two teams that have racked up 100 or more goals.

But the East has three squads in the 90s compared to only one in the West. Of the teams with 80 or more goals, five are in the East compared to four in the West.

The top eight point producers all hail from the Eastern Conference, with Joe Thornton -- traded last week from Boston to San Jose -- sitting ninth and Los Angeles Kings forward Pavol Demitra at 10th.

Conversely, 10 of the best 15 teams in terms of goals-against hail from the Western Conference.

If you're looking for an answer to explain the trend, you'll be searching for a long time.

Only two top scorers have moved from the West to the East: Peter Forsberg and Vinny Prospal. In fact, more scorers have gone in the other direction -- among them Amonte, Thornton, Scott Niedermayer and Brian Rolston.

Amonte is bemused by what has transpired.

"I don't know why but they're scoring so many goals out there," he said.

"Every night, it seems you see scores like 6-2, 5-3. It's going to be interesting for us because I know we're not going to change the way we play."

That was displayed in the win over Pittsburgh, a trend the Flames plan to continue tomorrow when they face the Philadelphia Flyers and Wednesday's road-trip finale in New Jersey.

Calgary GM/head coach Darryl Sutter doesn't expect his squad to begin shooting out the lights, even if Philly is the NHL's third highest-scoring squad.

"I think Jersey and Philly and Calgary are really similar type teams," Sutter said.

With more of an emphasis on intra-divisional play this season, the number of games against the other conference has been reduced.

Teams will play 10 games outside their conference, travelling to one full division and playing host to another.

Other than a Columbus-Washington meeting on opening night, East-West play didn't begin until last week.

Tomorrow's Flames game will the second of five in a row against the East.

Sutter admitted he's curious about how it'll play out.

"I wish we played them more. I'm a fan of the division rivalries but not to the point where we're not playing everybody," he said. "I'm glad everybody's now getting the opportunity to do it."

In the early going, the Western Conference holds a slight edge, with a 7-3-4 record and 48-44 edge in goals prior to yesterday's action.

Which conference will prove to be more powerful?

Flames forward Chuck Kobasew isn't interested in guessing, only enjoying.

"It's good to play some different teams," Kobasew said. "It seems the Eastern Conference, the teams we've been watching, are highly skilled. We're going to have to go in there and try to out-compete them."


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