SUN Hockey Pool

Flames' energy flickering

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

CALGARY -- Brent Sutter believes his team will benefit greatly from the mental break.

Three days between games is a rare luxury for the club so far this season.

That doesn’t mean the Flames head coach is allowing his charges a physical break.

Practice Monday finished with players skating the ice length-wise and width-wise.

A rarely seen twist on it was them having to do pushups, situps or squats upon returning to the boards.

“A little bit old school,” said centre Olli Jokinen. “I guess he wanted to make sure everybody did some off-ice workout stuff, too.”

Thanks to the NHL’s condensed schedule for the Olympic break, the Flames last had three days between games just before kicking off their November schedule.

So having some time before facing off against the St. Louis Blues Wednesday is a welcome respite.

But Sutter has big plans for the down time.

Mainly, snap his players back to playing like they were prior to their current losing skid which has them staring at one win in five outings.

“Things have gotten away from our game the last couple of weeks, and we haven’t had a chance with practice time to work on them,” Sutter said after putting the players through an intense session at the Saddledome. “We have to get ourselves back to being what we are about as a team and where we were two weeks ago.

“It’s working on details. Outsiders who don’t play the game or don’t play at a high level, it may not seem important, but it’s about playing the game the right way. The details are a very important part of that.

“Take care of that, and the end result will take care of itself. We’ve gotten away from that, at times, the last couple of weeks and it’s hurt our game.”

Part of that can be attributed to the mental fatigue of playing so many games in a short time all over the continent.

However, Sutter said he believes players have let bad habits creep back into their game. Players willing to do all it took to win close, low-scoring affairs a few weeks ago are cheating offensively, and it’s meant losing results.

“We have to play a certain way. When we were going good, and I praised the team at the time because it was important they knew this was what we’re about as a team,” Sutter said. “There’s nothing wrong with winning games 2-1 or 3-2 because that’s what we are as a team. We’re going to get into low-scoring games, so we have to close the deal on that. We were doing that, but let that get away from us.

“We take a chance here or take a chance there, and it ends up hurting us.”

The Flames don’t need to make any sweeping changes to their gameplan. Sutter believes it’s a matter of providing a refresher course.

“It’s not a difficult system. It really isn’t,” Sutter said. “It’s understanding and being intelligent, knowing we have to do things — our forecheck has to be done a certain way, our neutral-zone play needs to be a certain way and be flawless in our zone and take pride doing it.

“And it doesn’t matter who you are, we all have to do it. That’s why we had that success, everyone took pride in doing it, played a good team game and the goals took care of itself.”

For their part, the players believe they’ll be back to being mentally sharper, too.

“Most of the time, the game is mental,” Jokinen said. “Everybody’s in good shape and everybody should know what we have to do. The biggest thing at Christmas is the guys have families and friends come in and have the other activities. You have to stay focused, and that’s more mental.

“Everybody’s aware of the situation. Look at the standings, we’re three points behind first place and four points ahead of ninth place, so we realize how big each point is.

“We want to win the game Wednesday and get a couple of days off. Well deserved days off.”


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