Flames aim: start strong

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

The Calgary Flames have been used to glorified overnighters so far this season.

Their journeys away from the Saddledome have been brief -- as in toss an extra pair of briefs in a plastic bag, slide a toothbrush in the suit pocket and they're all set.

Arriving in St. Louis yesterday with a week's worth of clothing, the Flames are actually looking forward to their longest trek away from home so far this season.

"It's been a different schedule, kind of going back and forth," Jarome Iginla said of the new format that pits them against every other team in the league but, aside from this seven-night foray and a marathon trip in March, only takes them away from the 'Dome in spurts.

"We're looking forward to it."

Kicking things off on a winning tune against the Bluenotes in St. Louis -- a team struggling with injuries and full of young players still trying to find their way -- is just the kind of start they need if they want to improve their 5-6 road record.

Visits to New York City and Montreal follow and, non-hockey outings aside, it's not easy to leave those towns with smiles.

A finale in Detroit gives them a shot at redemption after the Red Wings pulled away late in their first meeting of the season at the 'Dome a couple of weeks ago.

Much hinges on bashing the Blues, though. They are dead last in the Central Division and among the league's worst so far, but with four games in six nights, and the last three against three of the league's best, starting the trip with a loss would be a disaster for the Flames.

Iginla prefers to look at what can be accomplished with a victory.

"A road trip like this, when you're playing a lot of games quickly like that, you can build some real momentum," said Iginla.

"You work on getting the first (win) and then you get a chance to roll."

Convincing themselves and their fans they can bring to the road the winning formula they've discovered at the 'Dome won't be easy when you consider the level of competition they will face this week.

The Rangers and Canadiens are Eastern Conference elite.

Reminders aren't necessary when discussing the Red Wings and what they have been able to do to the Flames in recent years.

"We're playing some good, tough teams and it'll be a good test for us," said winger David Moss.

"Our play, whether at home or on the road, has to remain the same. Stick to what works. And, hopefully, that's just keeping things simple and playing the system."

Their system has worked for them lately, and they've earned wins in five of their last seven games.

They should be eating, sleeping and breathing it as they eat, sleep and breathe together during their first extended road swing.

Bonding is a big part of the journey. Already on the way to becoming a tight team, success on this trip will go a long way to strengthening their friendships.

In turn, improving their play.

"You eat together a lot. You do things during the day together. It is a chance to bond," said Iginla.

"Chemistry and bonding, I don't think it is overstated on a team. The better that gets, the better your team is."


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