Team says good-Brier to Calgary

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

Last time the Brier took over the Saddledome, the Calgary Flames embarked on a nine-game roadie.

By the time it ended, the only storyline worth following was Jarome Iginla's quest for the NHL's scoring title and his first 50-goal season.

"I don't remember anything about it," Iginla said of that 2001-02 trek.

"I don't know where we went. Dead serious.

"We play a lot of games and they run into each other."

Iginla had his first career hat-trick -- at Madison Square Garden, no less -- and marched onto become a truly elite NHLer.

Other than that ...

"I don't think it went that well," recalled Craig Conroy. "We weren't in a great spot and we struggled."

As the Flames embarked on this seven-game trek which begins tonight in Ottawa, it's with a bit of the same-old, same-old feeling of life for a Western Conference team.

"My first games in the NHL was in a long road trip. That was my welcome," said left-winger Michael Cammalleri, recalling an 18-day, eight-game jaunt with the Los Angeles Kings.

"It was wild. I remember thinking, 'Is this what it's like? Is it all we do, travel?' It gets a little stale. This one's not too bad. If we're winning games, we'll have fun. And we're playing in some fun cities we don't see often."

After facing the Senators, Calgary heads to Philadelphia, Carolina, Atlanta, New Jersey, Detroit and Toronto.

It's not all that daunting, and not just because there are four teams that don't look to be playoff squads.

"The road, it's fun," Conroy said. "I'd rather have a long trip rather than all those little ones so we'd be able to be home more often. It doesn't scare me.

"If you have confidence in your team, I don't think a road trip does anything to you. Last season, we won all six games on that one trip and it was fun. If it's not going well, like the one when the Brier was here before, Iggy was lighting it up, but the team wasn't winning and that's when it gets long.

"I enjoy seeing the other cities now, and different rinks. It's great to go to Edmonton, but when you go all the time, it gets boring."

Head coach Mike Keenan's job becomes as much about finding the right rest-to-work ratio as line combinations.

"You get a feel for how the team's responding after games, the travel, the time you get into a city," he said. "It's a few miles, but there's nothing we can do about it. You just manage the schedule as well as you can."

The good news is the group will soon know who all will be donning the Flaming C once the playoffs arrive. The trade deadline is tomorrow, so by the time the Flames return home they'll have bonded as a team.

"Win games and then it'll be a good time," Cammalleri said. "On a road trip like this, you don't look at it as a long, trip with long-term goals. You take short-term goals and make it exciting that way.

"We'll set some small goals and use those things as motivation each game."

RACKING UP AIR MILES

- Calgary to Ottawa: 1,790 miles; 2,880 km

- Ottawa to Philadelphia: 376 miles; 605 km

- Philadelphia to Raleigh: 339 miles; 546 km

- Raleigh to Atlanta: 356 miles; 573 km

- Atlanta to New Jersey: 756 miles; 1,217 km

- New Jersey to Detroit: 486 miles; 782 km

- Detroit to Toronto: 214 miles; 344 km

- Toronto to Calgary: 1,677 miles; 2,700 km


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