SUN Hockey Pool

Mike-check month

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

Mike Keenan isn't too concerned over the wins and losses this pre-season.

He would like his Calgary Flames to feel the thrill of victory a little more often than last fall, though.

"I think there's values that you learn about winning, so I think that's part of the formula," said Keenan, whose team hosts the Florida Panthers tonight at the Saddledome in their pre-season opener at 7 p.m.

The Flames won just one game in eight tries during last year's exhibition schedule, but you can't read too much from results at this time of year.

Going 1-5-2 last September, the Flames seemed to carry their troubles into the regular-season.

They lost their first three outings in October and couldn't find their offence after scoring just 13 goals in the pre-season.

"I looked that up, and the results in pre-season didn't reflect at all on anyone's season," Keenan said.

"I'm not going to say the team, but one of the top teams in pre-season didn't make the playoffs.

"The emphasis isn't as much on that part of it as much as the process of putting the group together."

Kicking off their pre-season sked with four games in four nights, just four days into main camp, the Flames brass gets an early look at the youngsters in the lineup.

A massive exodus could follow, bringing the potential opening day roster together quickly.

"I think the evaluation in that first week is really good, because then we can make some decisions, make some choices and move on quickly and assemble the team quicker than waiting for games," Keenan said.

"I want to see who can play, how we're going to fit groupings together, how we're going to work pairings together, how they're improving, how we're going to improve our system, put our system of play together ... and we want to see the compete level of our players.

"We'll find out who can play and who can't play and where they can play and how hard they want to play."

The late start to camp and early jump into the games is a perfect combination for the veterans, too. They're expected to suit up for a couple of the early games at most.

"I love it. I prefer it off the hop," said newly acquired Flame Todd Bertuzzi.

"Whenever we can get to game action and get yourself more involved in that, it makes it easier. We'll have enough time to practise and get our lines all set and all that. Right away getting into game action and getting hit, so you're prepared for that when the season starts, is always good."

Bertuzzi's new linemate Jarome Iginla agreed.

"I love it now, you get right into the games," said the Flames captain. "That's really where you see most of the things. It's hard to tell from scrimmages and practices, it's not the same."


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