SUN Hockey Pool

Dodging the potholes

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:34 PM ET

The theme song of the Calgary Flames these days is Ring of Fire.

The Johnny Cash classic blares regularly over the dressing room speakers, especially after a win.

This month, though, the club should consider spinning another hit from the Man in Black: I've Been Everywhere.

"No doubt," said forward Darren McCarty. "It's the way the schedule is. Every team goes through it, so we've got to put together some good games."

Tonight's tilt in Edmonton (7 p.m., Sportsnet, FAN 960), begins a five-game road swing that runs to Denver, with two straight games in Chicago before finishing in St. Louis.

A little more than two weeks ago, they had a four-game swing that went from the Pacific (Vancouver) to the Atlantic (New York) and then concluded near the beginning of the mighty Mississippi River (Minnesota).

Only the pair of home-ice wins notched over Montreal and Buffalo broke up the stretch of nine road tilts in 11 starts.

Returning home from this coming trip with a road record above .500 is an expectation.

Bringing back four or five wins -- and ensuring they stay in top spot in the closely contested Northwest Division -- might just be a necessity.

"You've got to win hockey games and you've got to do it each and every night. It's pretty simple," said Robyn Regehr. "It's a month we knew would be extremely important because of all the road games and having to improve our road record.

"Also big is the timing of the month. We're coming into the Olympic break very quickly and we need to put together a solid string of games together, wins together, to put us in a good position for the stretch run."

So far, though, the road hasn't been kind.

As a team 14 games above .500 on the season, the Flames are right on the break-even line in games away from the Saddledome at 10-10-3.

"We have a little bit of momentum we have to make sure we carry into these games," Regehr said.

"Whether you're home or away, you have to bring good habits in your game and you could see last road trip we had some bad habits creep into the game and it resulted in three straight losses."

McCarty said the time has come to adopt their tough home-team mentality into their road repertoire.

"We've done the things we had to do at home and now we have to do it on the road. We have to get that road record above .500," he said.

"That's going to make the difference."

At least, McCarty pointed out, the Flames provided a strong example of their capabilities in their last road outing, a 4-1 victory over the Wild.

"Our last two games were good wins but I think we played as good of a game in Minnesota as we have all year and that's a great start," he said. "There were some holes in our game (against Montreal and Buffalo) but it's stuff we're aware of and have to improve on."

Or else their perch in the Northwest Division race -- tied with Vancouver but ahead of the Canucks because of a game in hand, four ahead of Colorado and five on Edmonton -- will disappear.


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