SUN Hockey Pool

No-name 'Nucks take tilt

RANDY SPORTAK, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

Early yesterday, Calgary Flames head coach Mike Keenan was amused by the uproar.

Iron Mike as he's known, was entertained by the media reaction to his animated performance in Thursday's practice, the theory being he had enough about his team's lack of success in the pre-season.

"If you thought that I was fired up, that was nothing," he said. "I found it humourous how you reacted to what I thought was fairly normal."

Yeah, it's not like Keenan's team -- featuring almost the complete NHL roster -- had lost 3-2 to a Vancouver Canucks side filled with more "who's thats?" than household names. That came last night.

But even after falling to 1-4-2 in the exhibition slate Keenan still didn't go mental.

"I don't know if it's so much what happened to our team," Keenan said. "You'd like to finish off the offence, for sure, when you have got that kind of momentum going, particularly in the second period, but (Curtis) Sanford played one of his best games I'm sure and he made a difference in the game.

"We just couldn't get it by the goaltender tonight when we needed to. If we made a difference when we're up a goal and perhaps made it a two-goal difference, I'm sure the outcome would have been more favorable."

The Flames, really without only Matthew Lombardi and his sore wrist from what's expected to be their opening-night roster, fired 42 shots on Sanford.

But the Canucks -- minus the likes of Mattias Ohlund, Kevin Bieksa, Aaron Miller, Sami Salo (wrist), Brendan Morrison (wrist), Markus Naslund, Daniel Sedin, Matt Cooke and Henrik Sedin and Roberto Luongo serving as back-up -- were more than equal to the task.

"We're trying to get into good habits and trying to get into our winning ways, especially here at home. Just one too many mistakes," said Flames forward Alex Tanguay. "If you get 45 shots with the team we have -- their goalie played an outstanding game, for sure -- we'll score more goals. We'll win our share of games but we've got to make sure we minimize those mistakes."

Wayne Primeau and Jarome Iginla scored for Calgary, while Brad Isbister, Trevor Linden and Lukas Krajicek tallied for Vancouver.

Still, it's not like Keenan was happy.

"I want to see us really tighten up in our own end. In my opinion, we gave up too many zone opportunities," he said. "We showed too much gap between the forwards and the defence. That's a part of our game I'm really gonna try to develop with them."

Iginla said the situation's not worth fretting over.

"Believe it or not, it might be good for us," he said. "It's something that gets the urgency level up. By no means are we panicking. Yeah, they ended up winning the game, but I thought for a lot of it we controlled it."

Owen Nolan left the game in the first period because of a sore groin.

Calgary concludes its pre-season schedule tonight in San Jose.

NEW FLAME?

Mark Smith, who played 323 regular season games -- and another 24 in the playoffs -- for the San Jose Sharks, was briefly listed on the roster on Calgary's website yesterday.

However, he was taken off after a couple of hours and Flames officials wouldn't confirm he'd been signed.

He was also listed as a scratch last night.


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