SUN Hockey Pool

Flames skid back in time

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

NASHVILLE -- It was '80s night in Music City.

The Calgary Flames look like they've travelled back in time. Not quite as far as the musically challenged decade of fluorescent legwarmers and hairspray, but back to November when they played their worst hockey of the season.

"We're not doing a good enough job in our own zone. We're not putting in the effort there. We're getting embarrassed," said defenceman Robyn Regehr after a 3-0 shutout at the hands of the Nashville Predators last night at the Sommet Center.

"I think we have the bad habits in our game that we had in November. That led to a disastrous month for us."

The loss was the team's fourth straight, a skid they haven't seen the likes of since the calendar turned to December.

"I hope that we haven't regressed that much," said Flames head coach Mike Keenan. "I don't see the same number of mistakes, but I'm concerned about the effort.

"The work ethic is the biggest concern."

With the addition of Curtis Joseph, most people expected Keenan to enjoy the luxury of having a reputable backup goaltender to turn to in the event things went sour with his starter once the veteran arrives later this week.

Turns out Captain Hook made his return a little earlier than expected, sending in rookie Curtis McElhinney a minute into the final frame after Predators defenceman Ville Koistinen added to second-period goals by Martin Erat and J.P. Dumont.

But don't put all the blame on starter Miikka Kiprusoff for his sudden exit.

He didn't have much help.

"I thought he made some great saves just to keep it close at 2-0 there in the second period," said Regehr, who was upset with the team's defensive play. And not just the defencemen, either.

"It's discouraging to see some guys ... we're not working in our own zone. We're out in the neutral zone hoping to get a pass on a breakaway or something. We can't do that.

"We have to come back as a team," Regehr added. "We've got to work together as a unit in the defensive zone -- get that puck and get going. We've got guys all over the ice right now, doing things they're not supposed to do.

"I think that's why we look like we're running around a little bit and giving up way too many chances against."

Keenan didn't criticize Kiprusoff and said he was just trying to do something -- anything -- to get his team going after being outworked for more than 40 minutes.

"Well I just thought we'd try to change some momentum," said Keenan.

"It was obvious that we weren't going to likely win the game -- it was 3-0 -- so anything you can do to try and change some of the momentum, get a reaction that might have helped us."

What they got was more poor play and a chance to see some decent goaltending by McElhinney, who hadn't faced a shot since his lone start Nov. 25.

He stopped a dozen last night in relief of Kiprusoff.

Keenan didn't rule out the possibility of putting him in against the Minnesota Wild tonight.

"It's not out of the question. He did play well today. He was very solid," said Keenan. "I'm very pleased and proud of him -- to be able to sit so long and come in and play as well as he did, it was impressive."


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