Flames, Blues talkin' smack

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:09 PM ET

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Blues defenceman Barret Jackman’s harsh words were meant for his own team.

His statement could apply to the visiting Calgary Flames, as well, though.

On the heels of the Blues’ defeat to Edmonton — a 5-3 loss in which St. Louis blew a three-goal lead — Jackman suggested some players may need to be “smacked upside the head” so they’ll snap to attention in anticipation of Tuesday’s clash with Calgary.

Some would say the Flames could use the same treatment after their most recent losses, a 2-1 overtime game against Minnesota Friday and then a 3-2 loss in Denver Sunday. In both games they were grossly outplayed in the first period and only had a chance to win because of outstanding goaltending from Miikka Kiprusoff.

“We don’t need to get slapped upside the head. We know,” said left-winger Eric Nystrom. “We just have to be smarter. Work harder and work smarter.”

Head coach Brent Sutter may given his charges a verbal cuff on the noggin behind closed doors, but didn’t through the media after yesterday’s practice in St. Louis.

In fact, he didn’t take to the ice for the short session, opting to watch from the stands at the Scottrade Center.

“I was feeling it’s probably a good day to be away from the guys and let the assistant coaches run practice,” said Sutter, who was steaming after the loss in Denver which caused his team to tumble to fifth place in the Western Conference.

“We’ve got to get our focus back on what allows us to have success, and it’s got to be everybody,” Sutter said. “It can’t just be certain guys. We need a full commitment by every individual. When we were going good, that’s what was happening, but got away from it the last two games.

“Our urgency dropped off. We have to get it back.”

Expect to see some urgency with the start tonight. Calgary has surrendered a combined 39 shots on goal in the first periods of its last two games. Gripe all you want about officiating being the cause against Colorado, but the Flames were outplayed in all areas which caused the tilt in the ice.

“For the most part this year, we’ve been a good first-period team,” Nystrom said. “We’ve got away from the good starts the past couple of games.

“We have to get back to making sure we’re hungry when the puck gets dropped. We can’t wait. We’ve got to be the aggressors, not sit for the other team to set the tone.

“When we’re aggressive, we’re at our best.”

The Flames have outscored their opposition by a 33-20 margin in first periods this season, and opened the scoring in 24 of 32 games.

You can bet Sutter, and his team, expect to continue those positive trends tonight instead of a three-peat of poor starts.

Lofty expectatations? You bet, but not out of the realm of possibilities.

“It’s good to have high expectations as long as they’re real, and I think they’re real expectations,” Sutter said. “We’ve proven we can play with the best in this league and at the top of this league, but only if we do it a certain way.

“When we get away from that, I guess they become unreal.”

They’d best be prepared, because Jackman is old-school enough to physically lay the smack if they’re not in top form, which means the Blues will be likely fired up.

“I’m not sure where the Blues are or how many wins they have in their last 10, but I know they have a physical group and competitive group,” said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. “We saw that last time we played them. Now that you say we’re both not feeling happy about our last bit.”

If smacks upside the head are needed after tonight, there will be even more unhappiness.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


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