Playfair trying to light a fire

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:06 PM ET

School's out according to Jim Playfair.

The Calgary Flames head coach believes 10 regular-season games is enough time for his players to understand their roles.

And now he expects them to take that knowledge and add the needed enthusiasm in order for the struggling squad to turn its season around.

"The players are really clear where they have to be on the ice in certain situations. They know our forecheck, they know our neutral zone, they know our defensive-zone responsibilities," Playfair said yesterday.

"The next part is getting them to do that with a lot of passion, a lot of emotion, every shift.

"Now that the teaching part and the clear understanding is in place, it's really important the next part gets put into place and that's the emotion and intensity of playing that way."

Flames hockey, as it's known, is about being physical, being assertive and being passionate.

So far this season, the squad that's limped to a 3-6-1 start has shown none of that fervour.

Which leads to the questions:

- How can a team with nearly all the same personnel that won a division title last season have so much trouble finding its identity?

- How does a team -- self-professed to be hard to play against night after night -- not have the same moxie?

And ...

- Where has that passion gone?

"I don't know if there's one thing that's been preventing it," Playfair said.

"I don't think you can pinpoint and say, 'This is what's being going on.' There's pockets of our game that have been OK and pockets that have been good. It goes back to the consistency of doing it shift to shift to shift. That's not there and that's where we have to improve.

"The structure of the system is in place. The focus of playing it hard every shift isn't consistent."

Certainly the Flames, who will face the Detroit Red Wings tonight in Motown, are becoming their own worst enemies.

The roster is filled with players falling shy of expectations. As a whole, the confidence is fragile, with mistakes ending up as goals against and too few chances being generated the other way.

Even players such as Daymond Langkow, who has been playing well, can't put his finger on the team's struggles.

"If we had the answer, we'd have figured it out by now," Langkow said. "Look at (Monday) night's game (a 4-2 home loss to the Capitals), in the first period, I had two real good chances to score and didn't score and it comes back and haunts you later in the game.

"It seems right now we make a mistake and it's in the back of our net.

"It's just a matter of getting more from each guy and getting the job done."

Captain Jarome Iginla insists, however, panic hasn't set in. With a spark, he believes an extended winning streak isn't far off.

"When you're rolling, you get bounces, the puck's there, everybody feels good and things happen. But when it's not, it takes everybody playing well," he said.

"We need all of us to find another level and that little bit more to win those close games.

"We've lost our share of close games and we've got to win those."


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