Flames all business

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

End-of-practice showdowns at Calgary Flames practices are supposed to bring some levity to any situation.

Normally, there are cheers when goals go in. The ribbing and banter between sides -- the club is split in two to make it a friendly competition -- brings out some great lines and plenty of laughs and guffaws.

Not yesterday.

Not on the heels of Thursday night's 6-0 season-opening-game thumping at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks.

The Flames practice in preparation for tonight's home opener was all business.

And during the showdown to end the session, there was no joy and no laughs.

You could hear a pin hit the Saddledome ice.

"Guys aren't too happy," said left-winger Rene Bourque. "We did a lot of battle drills because we lost a lot of battles for loose pucks and got outworked pretty much the whole game. What we wanted to do was get that battle back in us, get that fight back in us."

The Flames didn't show much fight in Vancouver in the most lopsided season-opening loss in franchise history.

For the first 15 minutes or so, the Flames were by far the better team. But after failing to convert on a litany of golden scoring chances and falling behind late in the opening frame, it became an old-fashioned textbook drubbing.

And they're well aware of the reaction from the Flames faithful -- how that one loss is not being taken lightly.

"I grew up in Toronto, man. I was expecting this," said Michael Cammalleri of the city's sombre tone towards the club. "I remember being that fan, being that kid, who'd be doing the same thing every game.

"I think we're pretty excited to get back at it."

Tonight, this year's Flames edition lift the curtain at the Saddledome against a Canucks squad many pundits pegged to struggle to make the playoffs but gave the Flames a serious whipping Thursday.

Could there be a feeling of revenge and redemption in the Flames dressing room when the puck drops?

"We're in the business of using whatever we can to prepare for the next game, so I think those kind of sentiments we're going to use to our advantage," Cammalleri said. "We're going to say to ourselves, 'This is the wake-up call we needed' and move forward with that."

Sounds good, but it's obvious after the drubbing in Vancouver this year's team will need more than an emotional jolt.

The Canucks may be the younger team but showed more resiliency by withstanding the Flames' early edge in play and playing rope-a-dope.

Meanwhile, the Flames were horrible defensively.

They only surrendered 23 shots on goal, but many were high-quality scoring chances -- a problem that can't simply be pinned on the defence corps, which will get a boost with Robyn Regehr's return after missing the game for the birth of his son.

"I thought the defence in a lot of situations were in the right position. The forwards weren't coming back to help them," said Flames head coach Mike Keenan. "Those mistakes defensively were, for the most part, responsibility of the forwards, not the defencemen."

Offensively, the Flames weren't any better. They did generate a string of quality chances in the early going, but they couldn't solve Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo, who slammed the door in the team's collective faces.

Flames captain Jarome Iginla is of the belief he and his teammates didn't create enough havoc for the Canucks star netminder.

"There are a few rebounds you have to be hungry for," Iginla said. "It's not like they're big, huge rebounds everywhere, but they're in the crease. We had a few last game we didn't dig hard enough for and weren't hard enough getting there."

That part of the game has more to do with determination than to do with talent, so watch for a vengeful Flames team that knows the importance of bouncing back.

"It's a built-in expectation you would have with a group like this," Keenan stated. "You may not have the same expectation if we were a real young group, but this group, I would suspect, has enough professional pride to respond and be prepared -- at least better than (Thursday)."

Iginla echoed that sentiment.

"It doesn't feel good today, but we realize it is one game," said the captain. "We have to get better, and we will get better. It's nice to play them again, too. We don't have to wait a long time to be a lot better against them."


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