Poor kill's deadly

RANDY SPORTAK, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

The picture is beautiful on one side; ugly on another.

The Calgary Flames scored two shorthanded goals in Thursday's 7-3 thrashing of the Colorado Avalance. But head coach Jim Playfair still graded the penalty killing performance as poor. The Flames, after all, also surrendered three powerplay goals against.

"When you look at it, break it down and are really clear on the details of it, there's one more step of work and one more detail that has to be put in place," Playfair said.

"It's just about the urgency and preparation."

Calgary's 11 shorthanded goals this season are second only to the dozen Montreal has racked up.

It's not far off the pace of the franchise record of 23 set in 1987-88 -- a squad that scored 397 goals.

However, the primary job of the PK units is to prevent goals and the Flames have been among the league's worst since opening night.

Heading into tonight's meeting with the Edmonton Oilers, the Flames sit 27th in the league with a 79.1% kill rate. It's even worse on the road, 28th at 73.4%.

Making those numbers even more surprising is the Flames' defensive ability.

Overall, they're sixth in the league in goals-against and the best in five-on-five play, allowing 48 full-strength goals in 42 games.

"Some things aren't the easiest to explain," said Andrew Ference. "We go over it in practice lots and go over it (in meetings) lots and have great goaltending and great defence but it seems like teams just score on their chances."

That appears to be the one thing preventing Calgary from running away with the Northwest Division.

"It is frustrating," said defensive forward Stephane Yelle. "We're trying to find ways to improve it and work on it. It needs to improve. Our five-on-five has been really good, so if we can combine those two together, we'll be in good shape."

Yelle denies the team's penalty killers are more focused on scoring shorthanded than preventing powerplay goals.

"The times we've created offence, I don't think we've given up too much defensively," he said. "Let's say we have a rush offensively, I don't remember a lot of times when they've rushed back and scored because we've been been out of position or tired because we went for offence."

Which simply means there are no excuses for the poor penalty kill. The 11 shorties, Ference said, don't make up the difference.

"I wouldn't say it balances itself out because a strong penalty kill is gonna consistently bring you more wins than the odd shorthanded goal but I'll take them as long as they can swing games for us," he said.

NEWS FROM SICK BAY:

No miracle recovery for Jarome Iginla.

"I'm not going to play (tonight)," said the team captain and leading scorer, who's expected to visit with team doctors today.

Iginla suffered a MCL sprain on his left knee Jan. 4.

Meanwhile, right-winger Chuck Kobasew participated in a light, optional skate with several teammates yesterday, just over a week after suffering a concussion.

There isn't a firm date for a return but he is close.


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