SUN Hockey Pool

Flames hitting hard stuff

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

Well aware of their recent flops against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Calgary Flames want a fresh start.

That means getting off to a good one at the Saddledome tonight in the Western Conference powerhouses' last meeting of the regular season.

"We have to make sure that we come out and have a really strong start in this building, make it a tough place to play," said defenceman Robyn Regehr, who saw clips of the Hawks beating the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 Tuesday at Rexall Place.

"We saw on the highlights they came out and almost scored on Edmonton on the first shift."

There are plenty of those sort of low-lights in game film between the Flames and Blackhawks this season.

Kicking the four-game series off with a 6-1 blowout at the United Center in November, the Flames managed a more closely contested effort in a 3-2 overtime loss at the Dome in December.

Last month, though, the Hawks took a third straight head-to-head victory, 5-2 in Chicago.

"They've pretty much owned us in the last few. Outscored us consistently and embarrassed us," said Jarome Iginla.

"I think everybody in our room is looking forward to playing them and responding."

Responding to back-to-back losses on the road this week, and the first three games against the Blackhawks.

But it won't be easy.

The Blackhawks are rolling after wins in Edmonton, San Jose and Anaheim in the first four games of an eight-outing road trip.

"We have fun," said defenceman Brian Campbell yesterday in a raucous visitors room at the Dome. "We enjoy each other. We enjoy being on the road.

"We're learning how to win on the road. We're just kind of a team that's a little cocky -- not in a bad way."

They've used their fast feet to put the Flames on their heels early in their previous meetings.

"I think that's our strength -- speed," said Blackhawks winger Martin Havlat. "If we're moving our feet, we are a dangerous team."

The Flames know it. But the Hawks also know the Flames are a different team at the Saddledome.

"It's not the biggest rink, the fans are right on top of you -- it gets loud in there," said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. "I think this is an energy team that uses that momentum with its home crowd."

Regehr knows even home-ice advantage is no guarantee against the Blackhawks and Flames netminding nemesis Nikolai Khabibulin.

But despite two straight losses, Regehr believes his team is confident, too.

"We can get to (Khabibulin). We can get to this team," he said. "We've done it in the past, we've beat some of the best teams here this season, so we know we can."


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