Iron Mike knows when to hold 'em

RANDY SPORTAK

, Last Updated: 8:32 AM ET

It's obvious Iron Mike hasn't gone soft.

But it's just as obvious he's learned a thing or two from past days.

And pushing all the right buttons at the right time.

Mike Keenan is still willing to crack the whip, play the heavy, however you want to call it.

The difference is he knows where to draw the line now.

The Calgary Flames head coach was absolutely livid about his team before their game eight nights ago against Anaheim.

Certainly, they weren't ready, and with illness running through the room, they weren't going to fare well against the Ducks.

He was right, and let them know it in no uncertain terms afterward, also blasting the players through the media. The result was a strong performance against a game Phoenix Coyotes team the next night.

This week, he had to do it again when a lacklustre practice warranted an early end, but Keenan didn't voice his displeasure as loudly as he would have in years past.

Make no mistake, he let the players know it wasn't acceptable to simply go through the motions when preparing for a game, but instead of pulling out old-school tricks like making them work out, ride bikes or run stairs, told them to go home and ensure they'll be ready for the game.

Keenan's been the heavy on occasion this season, but he's been wise enough to leave the major artillery in his bag of tricks until he really needs it, meaning closer to the end of the season or even in the playoffs.

It's a lesson less-experienced coaches around here in years past could have heeded.

FLAMING C-NOTES

Assuming David Hale didn't score in last night's game against the Nashville Predators, the Calgary Flames defenceman is very, very close to equalling the record for longest start to a career without scoring a goal. Hale, who had played in 209 games prior to last night's clash with the Nashville Predators, is not far off the mark of 217 games set by Terry Murray. Hale, one of the most likeable players on the Flames, would love to be in the record books, but not that way. By the way, the longest goal drought in NHL history belongs to Ken Daneyko (256 games) ... Just curious, did anybody out there actually believe there is a goaltender controversy with the Flames? The fact Curtis Joseph played five consecutive periods -- three in what was a start scheduled for the back-up goalie days in advance -- came through and played well enough to win is his job. The job to backstop the Flames as far as possible in the playoffs belongs to Miikka Kiprusoff, and that won't change barring injury or a major meltdown.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Good to see the Chicago Blackhawks are making peace with former greats Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, who were both essentially divorced from the organization for more than 30 years. Just as nice is the thought of the United Center filled to the rafters for the event. Hopefully we'll get to see that when the Flames hit the Windy City a week from now ... How priceless is this, the Anaheim Ducks aren't happy Chicago players were being rough with defenceman Chris Pronger in his first game back after suffering a broken jaw. Pronger wore a football-style mask, but -- claim his teammates -- players such as Ben Eager were handing out a few extra shots when given the chance. How many suspensions has Pronger received for head shots? And this is a team with Corey Perry and Todd Bertuzzi. What's that line about the pot and the kettle? ... I know John Tortorella actually won a Stanley Cup as a head coach, but it doesn't seem right to have him and Bob Johnson on par. In fact, with his next win -- provided the Tampa Bay Lightning ever win another game -- Torotorella will surpass Johnson for the most victories by an American-born NHL coach at 234 ... Just wondering, if the Devils don't win the division, Lou Lamoriello wouldn't fire Brent Sutter, would he?


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