SUN Hockey Pool

Break offers much-needed practice time

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:34 AM ET

The break couldn't come at a better time.

With Tuesday's clash at home against Phoenix the lone game on the docket during an eight-day span, the struggling Calgary Flames will have some golden practice time.

Lord knows, the club sporting a disappointing 2-4-1 record could use the chance to fine tune the engine.

"There's things we have to improve, go over and get in better habits. A few days of practice will be good," said defenceman Andrew Ference.

"We'll watch teams from our division and our conference get even further ahead of us with points this next little stretch while we're practising.

"So that's good for motivation to show us what we have to accomplish to get back into a playoff position."

Certainly, the Flames have plenty of aspects of their game to address. Their special teams, both powerplay and penalty killing, have been brutal. They're surrendering far too many shots on goal and have been awful on faceoffs.

And that's just the beginning.

Head coach Jim Playfair will have his squad working on big and little things.

"It's not so much extra practice. It's time management and making sure what you're doing is right," he said. "You're preparing to play against Phoenix on Tuesday and between now and then it's the details and the way you lay out your days and program to get ready to play that one game.

"We have a big block of time, a really good block of time to re-establish our base of play and that's what we expect to do.

"When you look at how teams win on a long-term basis, they play in the hard areas very consistently and very strong.

"For our team, now, it's about getting back to our defensive zone responsibilities and building it from there. It has nothing to do with scoring goals, we scored 11 goals, that's enough to win on the road. Our problem is we're giving up too many shots and too many goals."

The Flames are off to an identically disappointing start as last season. The good news is their slow start -- with most of the same problems, dismal special teams and poor defensive play, the main culprits -- was overcome to the tune of a division title last year.

"No team is gonna go through a whole season without bumps in the road. We've just had a couple of early ones last year and this year," Ference said.

Besides, the schedule now has the Flames facing more Western Conference opponents, which means more chances to make hay.

"It is a long season and whether you win a bunch of games in the East or lose a bunch of games in the East, the playoffs are gonna be made or lost when you play your own division," Ference said. "That's gonna be the true test for any team in our conference and in our division specifically.

"When we start playing each other and those big points start coming, that's when you need to make sure your team's in line and you have all your problems straightened out."


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