Flames fare well during busy stretches

PETER MAHER -- For Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

SAN JOSE -- When Joe Thornton was in Calgary on Jan. 30, he walked about without a coat despite -25 degree temperatures.

When asked if he had lost his senses, the affable San Jose Sharks star centerman replied, "it's mind over matter."

It's also a matter of logistics. An NHL players' itinerary consists mainly of airplanes, buses, hotels, taxis and rinks. If John Candy were alive, he'd probably star in a movie about the routine.

A player doesn't have to walk outside much.

Unless he wants to, of course.

The Flames current five-game, 10-day road trip to some sunny climes doesn't require overcoats, which is a welcome change for the players.

And there's only one set of back-to-back games, which won't happen until next week with encounters at Phoenix and Dallas.

Publicly players, and especially coaches, downplay this type of scheduling so as not to create a negative mind-set, but privately, most would prefer at least a day between games.

Flames coach Mike Keenan feels it's only an issue when it involves a flight that's more than a couple of hours.

"If a team plays in Edmonton one night and in Calgary the next, it's not a problem," he said. "It's a quick flight and the players are home or at the hotel by midnight. Longer flights with a time-zone loss can present challenges. We do our best to minimize those."

Next Tuesday and Wednesday when the Flames end their trip, they fly approximately two hours and 15 minutes to Dallas from Phoenix, losing an hour going from Mountain to Central time.

To prepare his players psychologically, Keenan is certain to remind them of the last time the Flames played in San Jose Jan. 3.

The previous evening, the Flames played at home, beating New York Rangers 4-3. Then they rushed to the airport, cleared customs and immigration before embarking on the two-and-a-half hour charter flight to Oakland. Upon arrival, they had a 50-minute bus ride to San Jose. Despite gaining an hour in time, players weren't settled into their hotel until 3 a.m.

Seemingly undaunted the next night, the Flames defeated the Sharks 3-2 in overtime.

That was one of three occasions where the Flames have swept both halves of back-to-back games.

Flames defenceman Adrian Aucoin downplays the back-to-back game fatigue factor.

"When you win the first game, that momentum can carry over to the next night. Even if you lose the first game, coming right back and playing you want to redeem yourself," he said.

There may be something to that, as well. In their last two back-to-back outings, Keenan's crew lost the first game only to win the second.

In fact, the Flames appear to perform better when they are busy. In the 11 occasions thus far where they have played three games in four nights, Calgary has an impressive 9-2 record.

Flames general manager Darryl Sutter doesn't place any credence into a team being tired.

"As a player, I always played better in the second game of back-to-back."

Hale in the Hall

The No. 3 jersey David Hale wore with the New Jersey Devils is hanging in an enclosed exhibit in the Hockey Hall of Fame, commemorating the Devils 25th anniversary season.

If Hale ever scores his first NHL goal, the Hall may be asking for the puck and stick.

Hale has played some fine defence for the Flames this season, but has now gone 201 games in his NHL career without scoring a goal after last night's 4-3 overtime victory over the Sharks.

The Elias Sports Bureau reports the record for consecutive games at the start of a career without a goal is 217, set by former Philadelphia Flyer defenceman and later coach, Terry Murray.

The record for the longest time frame between goals was set by Hale's former Devils defense teammate, Ken Daneyko, at 271 games.

Hale has no desire to hold either of the records.


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