Bidding to douse road woes

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

Mike Keenan can't offer any insight into last season's abysmal Flames road record.

Like the rest of us, the new head coach in Calgary leads his charges into their first test on the road tonight against the Detroit Red Wings with only a guess of what went wrong.

"Unless you're amongst the group, you really wouldn't know," Keenan said when the inevitable question popped up -- probably for the hundredth time -- after practice yesterday at Max Bell Centre.

"From an outsider's point of view, I would suggest it was an element of confidence that they had to deal with.

"I don't suspect at this point -- my gut feeling tells me -- that those competitive issues they struggled with will be a factor (tonight)."

It's not that Keenan brings with him an instant recipe for road success. The players know the responsibility lies with them. Aside from keeping his eye on the matchups and managing his players' icetime and maybe a motivating word here or there, there's not much Keenan can do.

"No. When you look at winning a hockey game, whether it's at home or on the road, it comes down to some basics that haven't changed for a long time," said defenceman Robyn Regehr. "You have to, first of all, work harder than the other team."

Regehr said there are other areas of focus, not the least of which is discipline.

Untimely penalties have been a problem for the Flames so far this season, and the Red Wings can put a game out of reach quickly if given the opportunity on special teams.

"Discipline, for sure," agreed Keenan when asked for his keys to road success. "We've got to stay disciplined and work. That's a real big emphasis because it's a tight league."

Detroit is the perfect place to test the theory that with a new coach and new players comes a clean slate.

Those who were around last year claim to have forgotten the misfortune of last season.

Surely they hope this year's record away from the Saddledome isn't as forgettable. But the four-game swing is a tough way to start, with visits to Detroit, Dallas, Nashville and Denver.

"It'll be a real good test for us," Regehr said. "Detroit's a very good team, and they've had great home records over the years. It is a tough place to play and win, so it should be a good game."


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