SUN Hockey Pool

Drought has Flames thirsty

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

You could chalk it up to simple fun and games. Or, you could call it proof how bad the Calgary Flames scoring woes have become.

At the tail end of yesterday's practice, the most one-sided rush in hockey history occurred when all the players on the ice crashed the net in a quest to score on Brian Boucher.

Even Miikka Kiprusoff joined in the fray poking his stick into the crush of people with the faint hope of shovelling the puck past his goaltending partner.

For what seemed an eternity -- but was actually more like 30 seconds -- Boucher held his ground with one save after another.

Eventually, though, the newly acquired backup goalie succumbed and the puck finally crossed the line to a great cheer.

"I think I'm the one who put it in," proudly stated Kiprusoff afterward.

If that's the case, maybe it's worth seeing if Kiprusoff can lend a hand in the offensive game, too. Lord knows lighting the lamp hasn't come easy for the squad that's dropped three straight and five of six.

The underlying message throughout the woes has been the offence, mainly the lack thereof, with four goals in the last three outings.

Fans aren't the only ones wondering why the team can't score. To a man, the Flames are wondering the same.

"There's lots of guys in here who can score," said Shean Donovan. "Our game is to have speed and forecheck and on that forecheck you have to get it to the net.

"Maybe we haven't been getting it to the net enough. The coaches have been harping on us to get it to the net because it's going to be ugly ones that start us off, not nice ones."

There is some good news as the team prepares to head today to San Jose for tomorrow night's clash with the Sharks.

Kiprusoff is back on track with his game. Of Calgary's last four losses, he's surrendered a grand total of eight goals, hardly the type of netminding that you'd think would be part of a skid.

He's not voicing any frustration that his strong netminding has gone for naught.

"You can't think that way. I have to just do my job out there," Kiprusoff said. "Of course it's tough but I think this team has got lots of chances to score, so it's just working hard and trusting ourselves.

"For sure, we're going to score more."

Besides, the sky isn't falling.

Even with this recent swoon, the Flames awoke yesterday morning tied with Vancouver for top spot in the ultra-competitive Northwest Division.

Sure, a three-game winning streak instead of a 0-1-2 mark would mean separation from the pack but it's the kind of position the Flames would have been thankful for back in October.

"Works for me," said Darren McCarty. "Right now, it's making sure we individually hold ourselves accountable to the whole and, if you ask everyone, they all know we have more to give.

"You can see the difference in our team when everybody's going and on the same page. It's a thing of beauty and, when it's not, we're vulnerable and that's a test we're facing right now."

As McCarty points out, a winning streak is just as likely to come following the recent slide. And that would put them in good stead heading into the two-week Olympic break.

"The fortunate thing is we know what's in here and we know it's up to us," he explained. "You can't win every game but you've got to give yourself a chance to win every game. We've been close but haven't got it done. The difference in hockey games at this level isn't big things, it's little things. It's a bounce here or a bounce there.

"It's not about caring, preparation or a lack of work, those things are here. It's finish, finishing opportunities.

"You've got to create your own good fortune and good luck and we haven't done that in a 60-minute game as of late.

"With it all being conference games the rest of the season, it's playoffs now. It doesn't matter how well you play or how bad you play, it's about winning. That's what we're not doing, we're in a little funk, but we've still got the opportunity of reaching our goal of being in first place at the Olympic break. It'll be tough but it can be done.

"That's the maturation of going from a team fighting to make the playoffs to becoming a contending team."


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