Tripping out

RANDY SPORTAK

, Last Updated: 7:06 AM ET

ST. PAUL -- For Robyn Regehr and his teammates, the journey was almost as important as the destination.

The team has tucked away three wins in as many outings on their four-game trek that ends tonight in Vancouver.

A victory over the Canucks would make it a four-for-four trip and a nearly 50% improvement on their season road record.

But Regehr said the focus for him and his teammates wasn't just winning but how they played doing it.

"The most important thing, and we've talked about it the last couple of weeks, is we've been concerned about our play, trying to get our team in order and our game in order," Regehr said. "I think we're definitely on the way to doing that, and we have to continue to think that way. When we're doing that, we're giving ourselves a chance to win.

"Oh, we have to win our games and don't have to worry about what everyone else is doing."

For much of this season, the Flames woeful road record befuddled the experts.

The NHL's best home-ice squad, they headed for the first outing of this trip in Chicago with a mere nine road victories.

A win over the Blackhawks was followed with a pair in Minnesota against a Wild team which headed into that mini-series on a nine-game winning streak.

Three wins in a row, especially with the Colorado Avalanche on the verge of reeling in the Flames, was more a necessity.

"It's pretty desperate times, really it is," said centre Craig Conroy. "As much as you want to say 'we're coming together' and stuff like that, we're desperate. We needed to have these games because Colorado just doesn't go away."

The Flames have now put together the longest road winning streak of the season (longer than any run they had last season) to improve their road record to 12-18-8. They've won five of their last eight road tilts, a solid trend considering it'll take a miracle for the Flames to have home-ice advantage, even if they continue their winning ways.

The Flames have been interrogated all year, grilled for answer on why they couldn't win away from the Stampede City. So, the question begs: What changed? Why are they winning on the road now?

"Our overall game is just a lot better," Regehr said.

"I don't think you can just point fingers at one thing. Probably the biggest, though, is we're doing a better job in our own zone. We're keeping the shots down, at least (Thursday) we kept them down to a level manageable for Miikka (Kiprusoff).

"And we're controlling the play. You'll notice we have lines doing a very good job in the offensive zone, cycling the puck, keeping the puck and really working them over.

"It's tiring working in your own zone."

It doesn't hurt Kiprusoff has regained the form that made him the NHL's best goaltender last season. He's surrendered just seven goals in the last five clashes, all victories.

"I don't think it's (Miikka playing at) another level," head coach Jim Playfair said. "I think he's been fairly consistent for most of the year. The one thing we haven't been strong in is preventing shots. I think we've expected him to do quite a bit of work and that's something we're obviously still working on."

That's added up to wins in close contests.

The Flames are below .500 in one-goal games this year but have come out on top in the last four decided by a single tally.

"This time of year is about winning one-goal games," Playfair said. "This is a time when everybody has to step up and be clear on that."

Although fans may figure the Flames are tired of Colorado's unwillingness to go away, Jarome Iginla figures the pressure from the Avs is good.

"We want to close it out. We want to earn our playoff spot," he said. "They've been playing so well but from our point of view we've got into a good position where we can just win our games. We don't have to watch them ... and wait and see how they do every day."


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