SUN Hockey Pool

Goals tough to come by

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

Some subjects aren't always met with enthusiasm.

Pulled aside in the Calgary Flames locker-room yesterday, forward Mark Smith feigned frustration and disgust when asked to talk about secondary scoring.

"Next question." he said, laughing.

Real frustration would be understandable as Smith is one of two forwards -- the other being Wayne Primeau -- who have yet to score for the Flames this season.

But with Stephane Yelle snapping a lengthy dry spell with a short-handed goal Friday, and a dozen other teammates contributing at least a point in the 6-1 win over the L.A. Kings, the balanced scoring believed possible is beginning to show.

Now the challenge is to contribute in a game that's closely contested instead of a blowout.

Assistant coach Rich Preston spoke with his bottom-six forwards earlier this month, asking for more. More timely goals to alleviate pressure on the top scorers. More energy. More of an impact in all facets of the game.

"They've got to score a big goal for you, whether it's a short-handed goal like the big goal Yelle scored the other night. We need more from those guys, no question," Preston said yesterday as the team prepared for tonight's game against the Minnesota Wild (7 p.m., Sportsnet).

"If you're not going to score, you've got to bring something else to the table," added Preston. "You've got to be really solid defensively. You have to have some other identity."

For Smith, it's laying a hit, taking on a fellow middleweight in a scrap and providing energy.

For Yelle, it's winning faceoffs and killing penalties.

For Primeau and Eric Godard, it's laying the body on everyone.

But goals are an essential aspect, and they haven't been easy to come by.

Of the 122 scores from Flames forwards, 100 of them have been potted by regulars on the top two lines -- Jarome Iginla (32), Kristian Huselius (21), Daymond Langkow (20), Alex Tanguay (11), Owen Nolan (9) and Craig Conroy (7).

Matthew Lombardi has 10, and the next highest total is Dustin Boyd's four. David Moss, Yelle and Marcus Nilson each have a pair. Eric Nystrom and Godard have one apiece.

Friday's blowout was a sign of improvement.

"We can't always rely on them. They do so much for us every game," Lombardi said of the top lines. "It's nice to know that we can look to other guys to help out."

The addition of a healthy Moss, combined with an apparently ready to return Owen Nolan, allowed head coach Mike Keenan to mix up his lines in practice yesterday.

The top line of Huselius, Langkow and Iginla was intact, while Moss stuck with Tanguay and Conroy on the second scoring unit.

Centring a potent third unit with Boyd on his left and the veteran Nolan on his right, Lombardi hopes they can spread the scoring out even more.

Smith, who joined Yelle and Godard on the fourth line, would love to join in, too.

"It sucks. I'm not going to lie to you. It sucks when you're in a little bit of a skid," he said.

However, he knows goals aren't his first priority and admits it's tough when you play less than 10 minutes a game.

"Your first priority is to keep the puck out of your own net and try to create some energy any way you can," said Smith. "If you score, it's a bonus. When those third and fourth lines do chip in, it makes your team more lethal."


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