SUN Hockey Pool

Flames feeling heat

The Calgary Flames are well aware of the standings when they wake up each morning. (Sun...

The Calgary Flames are well aware of the standings when they wake up each morning. (Sun Media/Darren Makowichuk)

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:15 AM ET

DALLAS -- Normally, you could simply chalk up the billboards in Dallas as a great way to market the Stars to hometown fans.

The team's entertaining but controversial slogan hyping up tonight's game, however, has a sting of truth to it so far.

Posted around the city this week are the words, 'Flames. The F is silent.'

And yes, Calgary has often looked lame over its first three games.

They've all been close, but the effort hasn't been anywhere near what it needs to be for the Flames to challenge for their division. They're not even challenging for a playoff berth.

Dead last in the Northwest Division, dead last in the Western Conference and displaying heart that beats only every second period or so, the Flames are well aware of the standings when they wake up each morning.

"I'd be lying if I told you we don't look at how Vancouver or how Edmonton or Minnesota and those teams do," said Wayne Primeau yesterday after a practice at the American Airlines Center. "Every game is important.

"Down the road, if you are fighting for a playoff position or if you're battling for a certain spot, you don't want to look back and say, 'We should have had this game' or 'We wish we would have had this game.' "

Right now, the Flames probably wish they could have all three games to do over. It's early -- and the standard for early judgment doesn't usually come until the 20-game mark or so -- but while the Minnesota Wild have started hot to pace the division, the Flames have been ice cold.

Head coach Mike Keenan says the standings are a daily gauge of your success, and his team isn't measuring up at the moment.

The way they joke in the dressing room and enjoy themselves even during a hard practice, the slow start -- now typical of the team the past three seasons despite the perennial personnel turnover -- doesn't look like it's shaken the players' confidence.

"Well, if it's not challenged, it should be," said Keenan. "And if they're feeling really confident, it's a false sense of security.

"There has to be a level of desperation when you play to be at your best. A desperate team playing with confidence is a tough team to defeat."

If the Flames can't add that desperation at this point, maybe the billboard will make its way to Calgary.

"Three games, three losses," said goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, who was mentioned by Keenan as a big part of what should be a winning formula that so far has been more like oil and water.

"I don't think anybody feels great here, including me, in this room right now."

There are three more games on this road trip that are about as difficult as they come, in buildings as hostile as they get. And the longer it takes to win, the bigger the gap in the standings.

"I don't think standings are a big thing, right now. Obviously you look at them, but it's wins and losses -- it's points not earned, right now," said veteran Adrian Aucoin.

Points earned? That would be point, as in just one of them so far.

"That's no good, because points get harder and harder to get as the season goes," Aucoin continued. "Early on is when you want to kind of build up a bit of a cushion because sometimes injuries come and other things unfortunate happen.

"It's never too early."

No, but there is such a thing as too late. The sooner they win, the sooner the F in Flames is no longer silent.


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