Vets feel like third wheel

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

The veterans are the odd men out when it comes to the manic pace of the Calgary Flames' top lines.

Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay have combined for 34 points. Kristian Huselius and Daymond Langkow have chipped in 29 between them. Their respective linemates, Craig Conroy and Owen Nolan, together have just a handful.

At least Conroy can joke about it, with the team stringing together four wins and an overtime loss in their last six outings.

"I'm very streaky, so hopefully I can get on a little bit of a hot streak and get this thing going," said Conroy with a laugh the morning after his Flames earned a 5-1 decision over the Nashville Predators.

"I feel good skating, doing all the stuff, but as far as getting any points and finishing, it's been tough.

"I'm getting lots of chances. You get to play with Jarome and Tangs, they're there. For whatever reason it's not going in. Hopefully it'll start, but for whatever reason, it's been a little bit of a struggle."

Both Nolan and Conroy have had their opportunities, but their roles aren't limited to scoring just because they're among the top six forwards.

"Their experience helps," said head coach Mike Keenan. "They have different roles. As long as they continue to play well and do their jobs, then that's part of it.

"I've been in situations where people go for long periods of time that don't get the personal results but the team gets the results. That's the most important thing to the group.

"That's why they can joke about it."

The wins help, too, says Conroy.

"Winning games and not having to worry about it definitely makes it a lot easier," he said. "Buster (Nolan) would probably say the same thing."

A win over the Detroit Red Wings tonight at the Saddledome (6 p.m., pay-per-view) won't be easy, but the Flames are a much more confident team than the one that visited Joe Louis Arena in the third contest of the season last month.

"I think quite a bit different. Probably the biggest thing that stands out is us coming together, the whole system," said Conroy. "We've had some good, solid games. The penalty kill has definitely been better and Miikka (Kiprusoff), after last night, looks unbelievable.

"We're starting to feel a bit more comfortable out there."

Conroy, Iginla and Tanguay were dominated by the Wings trio of NHL scoring leader Henrik Zetterberg and linemates Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom in a 4-2 loss.

"Yeah, they were pretty good last game we played against them," said Conroy. "It's fun to play against those top guys to get a chance to redeem ourselves after that last game against them."

Keenan is excited about the opportunity for his Flames to test themselves against one of the league's best.

"I'm glad we're playing them," said Keenan.

"We weren't as good as we are now when we played them. Of course, they're better as well.

"There's a challenge there for us. They're the top team in the league right now. It's a good opportunity for us to move forward, to be better."

The veterans don't have to score for the night to be a success. But against the Wings, it would help.


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