SUN Hockey Pool

Lopsided loss coasts 'em holiday

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

Skating hard at Westside Recreation Centre yesterday instead of flying home from a little recreation of their own in California, the Flames players were well aware they were back in Calgary a little early.

"For good reason," said veteran forward Craig Conroy of the cancellation of a couple of extra nights in San Jose and San Francisco after Thursday's game against the Sharks.

"You play that bad, you don't deserve any bonuses."

The 6-1 stinker of a loss at the Shark Tank led to the change of heart, although head coach Mike Keenan said it wasn't the only factor.

With the team returning a full 24 hours ahead of schedule Friday afternoon, players had to accept the fact their plans were scuttled.

"Guys had plans," said Jarome Iginla, who found out immediately after the game they would be returning home the next day.

"We weren't thinking about it during the game -- as much as it might have looked like we were.

"Nobody's pouting or anything like that."

They're disappointed, though. As much with their effort against the first-place Sharks as the consequences.

"We're disappointed, there's no question," Iginla said. "We were looking forward to staying. But we didn't, and that's fine. We understand that it's not our decision. We're embarrassed at our last game.

"We knew if we stayed, it was more of a reward. It was out of the ordinary to do that.

"We're fine with that, and we move on."

Moving on means hard work, as yesterday's practice showed.

Some technical drills followed by an endurance skate had the players sucking wind while stretching out their limb after the fact.

Keenan said it's been a month since he's been able to push up the team's fitness level, and he'll be doing it over the next few days until Tuesday's game against the visiting Colorado Avalanche at the Saddledome.

Having won just twice in their last seven games, the Flames have to find a way to get out of the funk.

"As a group, you've got to stick together, first of all," said Conroy. "You've got to come together as a team."

It's easy when you're winning. But when you're losing?

"When it's down, that's when you see true signs of guys," Conroy said. "This team, I think, is coming together. Very disappointed the way things are going."


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