SUN Hockey Pool

Good-mood road swing

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 7:51 AM ET

Walking into the locker-room, there's an obvious change in temperature.

It's not the desert heat, but the radiating 1,000-watt smiles the Calgary Flames are displaying after a third straight win to put them on the right track after a dismal start to their season.

Beating the Phoenix Coyotes to sweep a two-game road swing all but guaranteed a much different atmosphere at home, as well, when they returned in the wee hours yesterday.

They're not satisfied.

They're not comfortable.

They know they have much more work to do if they want to be considered a serious contender months from now.

They're on the right track, though. And that's a whole lot better than the train wreck that saw them win just once in their first five games.

"I don't know how you explain it, but when you're losing and you're being surrounded by a lot of negativity and tough questions, and just not playing up to where you can as a team or individuals, it's a really bad feeling as a player and being around that team," said Flames alternate captain Robyn Regehr.

"We've worked to turn that around."

It started with a victory at home against the Washington Capitals. A 2-1 win over a talented group of offensive stars that came thanks to strong goaltending by Miikka Kiprusoff and clutch defensive play in defending the lead.

Continuing with a character comeback against the Predators in Nashville, they started the two-game road swing on a positive note and officially began their first winning streak of the season.

Regehr called Saturday's 4-1 win over the Coyotes the team's best effort of the year.

Package it all together and you've got a mood that seems to have flipped 180 degrees in a week.

"It was a huge trip for us, even though it's how many games into the season?" Regehr said. "It was a real big trip for us."

Many professional athletes may tell you they don't read the papers, listen to the radio, or watch TV analysts voice their opinions.

Some don't, but most do pay attention to what's being said. More important than that, though, is what the team feels internally.

And the truth is they didn't have much more positive to say before stringing these three wins together than those on the outside.

"There wasn't pressure before we hit the road," said defenceman Dion Phaneuf. "It was a challenge to ourselves. We weren't good enough to start the season. We knew we weren't good enough.

"We got a big win at home (against the Capitals) and we knew that we had to keep with that work ethic and keep going in that right direction because the way we started was unacceptable."

Now, it's hard to find much to criticize.

A strong work ethic was on display from start to finish in Phoenix, and the determination they put forward for the final 27 minutes of the Nashville game was pretty impressive, too. The goaltending has been solid, too.

The positive energy they're now feeling in the room, and likely on the streets, can only help them carry it forward.

"I think we're playing with a little bit more confidence," said Regehr. "And I think you can see that out there on the ice in different situations.

"Now, we want to build on that."


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