SUN Hockey Pool

Meet of the matter

STEVE MACFARLANE, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 7:19 AM ET

When Calgary Flames general manager Darryl Sutter made an unexpected appearance at the Westside Recreation Centre, even the small but surprisingly rowdy flock of media members went dead silent for a moment.

The hush couldn't have compared to the one inside the dressing room at the facility where the Flames practised yesterday as Sutter delivered his message.

"Just to improve," said captain Jarome Iginla, when asked what Sutter had to say.

"Everyone talked at the beginning of the year how important wins are ... and they are, but these are the ones now where you see it and you feel it even more.

"We look at ourselves in the standings and we know how important all these games are."

With a 2-3 record since the all-star break, the Flames are dangerously close to falling out of a playoff position.

At the same time, they're also just two points behind the Minnesota Wild for top spot in the Northwest Division.

With the standings so tight, there's little room for error. A couple of lacklustre games this week -- a 5-0 shutout at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers, and Thursday's 3-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks -- preceded yesterday's visit.

"Oh, I think it was needed," said defenceman Adrian Aucoin. "I think there's things to be addressed. A lot of it is stuff that's quite obvious. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what we have to do better.

"Sometimes when things are said in certain manners, it means a little more. I think guys took it pretty to heart."

One of the biggest issues all season has been the team's lack of urgency in opening periods.

"We've got to bring it up," said Iginla. "Our team, you look at the trend all year, is that as the game goes on, we get stronger and stronger -- which is a good thing. But we, in the first, we're not as good as we should be.

"That's something we're aware of. We've talked about it and we're going to work on changing it."

The words spoken behind closed doors in the cramped dressing room were not about to be disclosed.

"Well, I think that's team information and priviliged information, so it's not something that needs to be shared with anybody else," said head coach Mike Keenan.

When the meeting was over, the coaches followed Sutter out of the room single-file and left the players alone to shower and change.

Aucoin said the players didn't need to hold their own meeting afterward.

"The message was definitely delivered well," he said.

When asked if he thinks jobs are on the line, Aucoin nodded.

"I think they're always on the line," he said. "I think there's a lot more players out there who aren't in the NHL, who are capable of playing in the NHL and there's a lot of players that are just more expendable now.

"I think that it's always a must-win situation, especially on an organization and a team like us that is geared to win right now."

The Flames have shown they have the ability to win.

But if they coast through the final couple of months without putting in the work, there will be no spring hockey in Calgary.

"Whatever was said, we already knew. We already addressed it. We talked about it," said defenceman Anders Eriksson.

"I think it shows the GM really cares. He obviously wants to win as much as we do. We've got Stanley Cup on our mind. The way we've been playing lately, we're slipping away from the way we can.

"Sometimes, you need a little kick in the butt. Wake up. We want to win and we've got to get back on the right track. You know that he cares, but it really proves a point when he comes down."


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