SUN Hockey Pool

Private problem

RANDY SPORTAK

, Last Updated: 7:14 AM ET

Mike Keenan shared his "ideas" with the Calgary Flames yesterday as to why they are so consistently inconsistent.

As for the media, well that was another story.

"I don't think so," the Flames head coach replied when asked what his message entailed. "I think that's information that should stay in the locker-room. It's something you try to protect with the team and deal with them."

OK, that's fair, but it's not impossible to see some of the reasons the Flames -- 6-7-3 heading into tonight's Battle of Alberta clash with the Edmonton Oilers -- look like a ship that's lost its rudder in rough seas.

* THE PENALTY KILL: The good news is the Flames' maligned PK has improved in the last couple of outings, killing nine of 11 chances. However, both those goals put the Flames behind against the Canucks, and killed momentum gained from opening the scoring in Denver.

Compounding the problem is the team's penchant for bad penalties early in periods. They've been shorthanded in the opening few minutes in each of the last three games, changing the complexion of the game far too early.

"Penalties don't bother me if they're good penalties," Keenan said. "You have no problem killing off (Dion) Phaneuf's penalty (against Vancouver) because he comes to the aid of a teammate and you're emotionally impacted by it. But when a guy gives a little hold or a hook ... that's counter-productive."

* FRAGILE CONFIDENCE: When adversity strikes, this team has become as delicate as a Ming vase. Instead of regrouping quickly, they swirl out of control.

Making it even more flummoxing is the fact the Flames are a veteran team.

"Old or young, our confidence has been wavering," said Craig Conroy.

"We've got to play with that veteran confidence we haven't been playing with."

* SOFT GOALS: Already down a goal early in the second period, the Flames were relying on goalie Miikka Kiprusoff to prevent the deficit from growing. He failed when Byron Ritchie's sharp-angled offering trickled over the line.

Kiprusoff is an elite goaltender, but hasn't been so far this season.

* WILD IN-GAME SWINGS: Trailing 3-0 midway through their game with the Canucks, the Flames had 10 shots and seemed listless.

It was a completely different game in the third period. Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo faced 24 shots in a furious 20 minutes. The comeback fell just short, but the Flames looked like world beaters.

Some say it's preparation, or lack thereof. Some will say it's a lack of passion. Some would say it's a team that's crumbling under the pressure.

"We're trying to figure that out right now," defenceman Robyn Regehr said. "All of us need to play better, we need to play harder. Things aren't always gonna go your way but we're still not even close to the level you have to be at the start of a game.

"We need to play with desperation right from the start. We keep talking about it, but you can only talk about it so much. You just have to do it."

Keenan made his statement yesterday and held a brisk practice. To him, the message was received.

"I think they want to continue to learn and I think they're really good people," he said.

"They don't want to disappoint people, but they have to learn to develop a different and better threshold in terms of their performances, as far as the fluctuations.

"We can't have these swings in games where you look like you can't play, and then you look like you can play against anyone."


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