Anchors away off game

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

Robyn Regehr and Dion Phaneuf are the anchors of the Calgary Flames blueline.

Too many times on the recent road trip, however, they looked as if they had anchors tied to their ankles.

Losing 8-6 in Toronto, Phaneuf was strapped with a minus-2 rating despite scoring his 10th goal and adding two assists.

Regehr was a minus-1 and saw a season-low 16:13 of ice time.

During what may be the toughest stretch of their year physically, star players are the ones counted on to pull a team through adversity.

Dropping games to future playoff TV audience members like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Regehr and Phaneuf haven't been up to the task.

The last line of defence is the first to admit they haven't been their best lately.

"I know, I can feel it, and it's not a good feeling," said Regehr.

"Right now, for me, I'm finding I'm not feeling that great on the ice. Making bad decisions -- the wrong decisions -- and just not being as effective as I would like to be.

"It's difficult, being this time of year."

This is the time of the season when players want to be gearing up in intensity and performance in preparation for the post-season.

Taking a step back isn't an option.

It is a concern.

"We know as defencemen we're the last line of defence and we have to be better," said Phaneuf.

"We know we can be better, we're capable of that, and we have to start doing that."

Lacking punch in terms of offensive production during the first half of the season, those numbers have come around for Phaneuf.

His plus/minus is still a sore spot for last year's Norris Trophy finalist.

There's a lot more pressure on him to improve in his own end with a $6.5-million contract kicking in over the summer, and not too many members of the fan base are convinced he's earning it at the moment. Especially when they see No. 3 on the ice for so many of the opposition's goals.

Running up a minus-6 rating over the past five games, Phaneuf seems to be backtracking after starting the road trip at a combined plus-4 in games against the Ottawa Senators and Philadelphia Flyers.

"It's no secret my plus/minus is not where I want it to be," admitted Phaneuf.

"I have to keep working at that and improving defensively to get that where I want it."

Those numbers don't even account for goals scored when their opponents were on the powerplay, and there were plenty of those on the trip.

The Flames gave up 10 in their last five games alone -- four of which were losses -- and both Regehr and Phaneuf play big minutes on the kill.

"We know that our (penalty kill) can be better, and we know that defensively we can be better, and those two are hand-in-hand," said Phaneuf.

Goals are getting past Miikka Kiprusoff in all kinds of different ways right now.

"It's a compilation of things," said Phaneuf. "Pucks are getting to the net and we're not doing a good enough job of clearing guys out. There's been a lot of rebound goals that Kipper doesn't have a chance on, and that's our job."

Vowing to be better, both Regehr and Phaneuf get a chance tonight against the Dallas Stars (7 p.m., TSN).

Watching video, getting rested, practising hard on home ice are all key components of turning things around.

Regehr's been looking for a remedy for days.

"I talked to Jim Playfair, who looks after the defencemen, in Detroit there a little bit and got him to look at (video of) a couple of games, all the shifts, and go through it," said Regehr.

"It's amazing, you might feel horrible out there, and feel like you're playing terrible, but when you see it on video you see that there's some very minor things that you can do to really help."

With their team winning just three times so far this month and allowing at least five goals against in four of their six losses, fans are hoping those minor details have been put into place over the last two days of practice.

Regehr hopes more than anyone it's a quick fix.

"You've got to get through it," he said.

"It happens to everyone, I just want to make sure it doesn't happen for too long."

NUMBERS GAME

DION PHANEUF

SEASON

G A P +/-

10 32 42 -10

LAST FIVE GAMES

G A P +/-

1 4 5 -6

ROBYN REGEHR

SEASON

G A P +/-

0 8 8 +13

LAST FIVE GAMES

G A P +/-

0 0 0 -1


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