SUN Hockey Pool

Flames red-dy for revenge

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

Typically a man of many words, Craig Conroy only needed one to describe how he felt the last time his club played in Detroit.

"Embarrassed," he said.

Marcus Nilson summed up his club's first-round playoff effort with two words: "Horse (bleep)," while Alex Tanguay encapsulated the spring shellacking by using three: "Men against boys."

When the body was still warm following the Detroit Red Wings' six-game annihilation of the Flames, the aforementioned trio sat shell-shocked in their lockers, unable to articulate just how bad they played.

However, with a summer of reflection behind them, the Flames took time before returning to the scene of the crime yesterday to come clean on just how outclassed they were by a Red Wings squad that outshot them 135-59 and outscored them 12-3 at Joe Louis Arena.

"It really was like men playing against boys -- that's how badly we were outplayed, especially in their building," recalled Tanguay of a series pushed to six games only by Miikka Kiprusoff's brilliance.

"We're proud individuals, and obviously we feel extremely bad and embarrassed about what happened last year. And while it will take all year, we can start redeeming ourselves (tonight)."

Jarome Iginla also admitted his club was horrific against the Red Wings -- both in the regular-season and playoffs -- but strongly rejected Tanguay's analogy.

"I wouldn't say men against boys at all ... but it wasn't us," said the Flames captain, whose club won just 13 of 41 road games last year.

"For that series, we were like golfers who lost our swing. It was tough to take because we didn't show ourselves."

They'll get a chance to re-establish their identity tonight when they kick off a four-game road trip in the Motor City that also sees them touch down in Dallas, Nashville and Colorado. Last year, the team picked up just one win in 10 tries in those cities.

"We didn't win many games, period, on the road, so wherever we would have gone, it wouldn't have been a good record," smirked Nilson, whose club snatched up just one of four points to open the season at home last week.

"It's obviously a tough trip, but we have to roll with it. It's an opportunity because we can get some momentum from it, too. We win the first one and we're .500, and we go from there."

Lose it and the alarm bells ring just a little louder for a group who's biggest fear outside of road trips was yet another slow start.

"I can understand why fans are nervous about (the trip)," said Iginla. "But as athletes and a team, we love to compete and we love challenges.

"We know it's a big challenge for us. We're playing in tough buildings against teams that do well at home, but it's a chance to come through as a group and build that confidence that we overcame something. To have some success on this trip would be a great way to forget about last year."

Winning two of four on the trip would give the club a running start at a seven-game homestand that follows.

Failure would further fuel debate over Mike Keenan's hiring as he was essentially brought in to better prepare and motivate a club that couldn't replicate its Saddledome success elsewhere.

"I know it's only two games, and you hate to say it, but this is huge," said Conroy, before boarding the team's charter.

"We've got to be far more desperate, and we've got to be tougher to play against. It's embarrassing looking back."

Fans couldn't agree more.


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