SUN Hockey Pool

Bin there, done that

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

COLUMBUS -- The trend of losses was snapped by the Calgary Flames in Chicago.

The trend of trips to the sin bin wasn't.

Win or lose during the team's road swing there has been a stream of penalties. Costly, costly penalties.

In all three outings, the Flames have been shorthanded more often than their opponents, and those infractions have had a huge impact.

Heading into tonight's clash in Columbus against the Blue Jackets, though, Flames head coach Mike Keenan doesn't seem to be fretting about the situation.

"Part of it is teams are pressing," Keenan said.

"There's an influence in most cases by a home crowd, especially 20,000 people, to influence the decision making a little bit."

Valid points, indeed, but the Flames can't deny the facts.

In their first game of the road swing, Washington had seven powerplay opportunities compared to Calgary's four, and scored both the game-tying and game-winning goals with the man-advantage.

The next night in Atlanta, the Thrashers began their comeback with a late second-period PP goal and then iced it with another.

The trip to Chicago ended with a win, but it's worth noting the Hawks had six powerplays, half of them in the third period.

"Those are the problems right now," said centre Craig Conroy. "Maybe we're too hard on the refs and need to keep our mouths shut.

"Lately, it seems we haven't got any calls. You see stuff like (Matthew Lombardi) chips the puck and gets run into the boards (in Atlanta) and there's no call, but last game the same thing happens on (Jim) Vandermeer's penalty and they call it.

"A lot of times, you begin to feel whatever you're gonna do means you're gonna get a penalty. So you get a little tentative. We've got to play with more initiative and keep our sticks down."

Conroy's point may seem like sour grapes on the surface, but he does have further evidence to back it up.

In Atlanta, Kristian Huselius was hauled down while in a prime scoring position and looking for the equalizer. There was no call, but shortly after Cory Sarich was flagged for a similar situation.

During the sequence that led to Bobby Holik's game-winning goal, Conroy took a high stick to the face.

Going further back, their overtime loss to Colorado came while shorthanded when Jarome Iginla was called for tripping when John-Michael Liles appeared to take a dive, but Dion Phaneuf was taken down just before regulation time ended.

Still, Conroy is just as quick to pin blame on his own side.

"We need to stay out of the box. It's a thing we talk about in the room because it tires the team out and gives them huge momentum," he said before noting turnovers have been causing much of their problems.

"It's not that hard. We need to avoid letting them come full blast at us because when you turn over the puck they come at you with speed and then you get penalties."


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