Meeting of the minds

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

A clean sheet of Saddle-dome ice awaited the Calgary Flames yesterday.

But on the heels of their disappointing road swing to Columbus and Chicago -- two games, two goals, two losses -- none of the players stepped out on the glistening surface.

Instead, the team gathered behind closed doors yesterday to discuss their recent woes that have led them to a slump in which they have lost four of their last five games.

Perhaps a little frustration coming to the surface?

"I would say there is frustration, but not to a point we can't get through it and deal with it," said defenceman Robyn Regehr.

"I look at that, too, as players really care, they realize what's at stake here, so to see a little bit of frustration isn't always that negative of an issue. What's really bad is when you let that fester and don't deal with it.

"It's been dealt with, and now it's time to move on."

Certainly, the Flames have plenty to deal with right now. Their season has been a wicked roller-coaster ride.

The high of a six-game winning streak has been tempered by a pair of tough five-game stretches on both sides of that spree. Remember, they opened the season with only one victory in five outings.

Head coach Mike Keenan wouldn't divulge what was discussed behind closed doors yesterday, but said the key was some communication between the players.

"You can't always be disappointed," he said.

"You have to be encouraged by some of the opportunities that setbacks give you and how they respond to it. It's not always what happens to you that's most important -- it's how you react and how you respond that's important, how you get better, how you learn and how you improve.

"I'm pleased about their discussion, in terms of what their needs are as a group and how they have to find those solutions amongst themselves. Ultimately, what you try to do is have players take ownership of their own play, of their own jobs, of their own circumstances on the ice.

"As you get closer to accomplishing that, the better your team is and the more consistent your team becomes."

Consistency has hardly been this team's calling card.

Oh sure, during their winning streak, they were strong defensively and providing enough offence, in big part thanks to a strong powerplay.

Of late, though, it's been an aboutface. Defensively, they've been a disaster, and have again fallen near the bottom of the league in goals-against.

Save for their wacky 7-6 win over the Nashville Predators, lighting the lamp has also been an extremely tough chore.

Calgary Flames fans are savvy enough to love a low-scoring, strong defensive team or a high-scoring, average defensive team, as long as it's winning. That love is being put to the test.

"All of us in there want to win. It's a really competitive group," said left winger Curtis Glencross. "That makes it a little tense once in a while, but we're going to stick together, get through the tough times, and when we find that next level, it's going to be good."

Scoring two goals in two games, while surrendering nine, won't do the job.

"Our powerplay could have ignited our team (Sunday) night," Keenan said. "On a day when you need it, when people aren't feeling well, have the flu, you need it to get a leg up on our opposition, we couldn't get it done.

"Our penalty killing was good on the trip, above 80%. It's the continuity of putting it all together at one time."

At risk of making excuses, the Flames have been victimized by a huge amount of games in a short period, with all kinds of travel. Since the calendar flipped to November, they've played six games in nine days in four different time zones. Adding to the problem is a flu bug making its way through the room.

Jarome Iginla and Michael Cammalleri, the team's top two point producers, were excused from an off-ice workout yesterday to go rest.

"Every team suffers its sickness. Same thing with the schedule, it's pretty tough for everybody," said goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. "It's all about us. We have to play better as a team.

"The main thing is everybody just has to do their own job, do what they've been asked to do."


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