SUN Hockey Pool

Star-ting point for Flames

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

Be certain the Calgary Flames know the Dallas Stars were minus a few luminaries the other night.

They are well aware the Dallas club they defeated 2-1 didn't have Brenden Morrow, Mike Modano, Brad Richards or Sergei Zubov in the lineup.

And the fact Dallas played in Vancouver the night before hitting the Saddledome did not go unnoticed.

But at this time of year ...

"A win's a win," pointed out Flames left winger Curtis Glencross.

"Right now, it doesn't matter who's in the lineup or not. It's all about your wins right now.

"It's huge for us to get any win. Vancouver is creeping up and we're looking to get away from them.

"Sure, it was their second game in two nights, but every team plays a second game in two nights. You have to go out and play."

In Calgary's case, when the St. Louis Blues come calling tonight, the key is to play better.

Make no mistake, the Flames were full marks for their victory over Dallas on Wednesday. The Stars have been a tough team for them to beat for several years.

However, that win hardly proves the Flames have turned the corner from their poor road swing.

There are still flaws in their game to correct, things to improve before they can claim to be on top of their game.

"Our penalty kill was better. We hit a lot more than the last few games. I don't know how many hits we had, but it seemed we were on the body more," Glencross said.

"And we tightened up in our defensive zone, didn't give up many scoring chances against, which is something we harped on and worked on the last few days in practice."

Tonight's opposition is a more formidable test, and the Flames must provide more of the same to continue the recovery back to form.

Losing to Dallas the other night would have been akin to dropping those games against Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Toronto. That's how shorthanded the Stars were when they arrived in Calgary.

Meanwhile, the Blues headed into the Vancouver for last night's clash there as one of the hottest teams in the league and are knocking on the door to become an elite-eight squad.

Which means the Flames must build on their most recent performance, not flatline.

As much as Wednesday's win was worth a sigh of relief, it wasn't perfect, and the Flames know it.

Even the good things they did were only stepping stones.

"It was a lot better game for us and a lot of things we'd talked about needing to improve on," insisted captain Jarome Iginla. "It was the small things, support in the battles, we blocked more shots, backchecked harder, and were more disciplined.

"We got a little bit away from it (on the road). You need your wins and need your points to climb the standings with the division (race), but you also need to play better and get in the right habits.

"I thought that was a huge step for us."

Ultimately, though, just a step.

Calgary's moribund powerplay must start clicking again. Against Dallas, that was indeed the club's weakest link.

However, even the positives they can claim weren't quite fully up to snuff, which won't be good enough to keep the winning ways going.

"These guys are just like Dallas, fighting for a playoff spot," said defenceman Cory Sarich. "I think it will be physical -- real physical. They said the Dallas game was going to be physical and it didn't really pan out to be that, but it will be (tonight).

"All of our meetings with these guys have been a battle. It's what we expect."

They should. St. Louis headed into the Vancouver game on a 10-4-2 run to pull within a couple of points of eighth-place Edmonton.

"It just goes to show you, you've just got to keep pressing," Sarich said. "Look at Vancouver, they were on the bubble the whole time, and all of a sudden, boom, they've separated themselves.

"It's the way this league works. With the amount of games you play, there's always time to climb back in if you can get wins."


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