SUN Hockey Pool

Flames hope to avoid singing the Blues

Calgary Flames coach Brent Sutter yells at a ref during NHL action against the Atlanta Thrashers....

Calgary Flames coach Brent Sutter yells at a ref during NHL action against the Atlanta Thrashers. (Lyle Aspinall/QMI)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:21 PM ET

If the Flames need one last bit of motivation going into their final pre-Christmas game, look at the standings.

A few weeks ago, they were staring at a shot at first place in the conference thanks to games in hand.

Now, they sit seventh heading into Wednesday’s clash with the St. Louis Blues.

“Yeah, and it’s a log jam,” said defenceman Robyn Regehr.

With a few days between tilts, Flames head coach Brent Sutter has been working to get his charges back to playing the structured game they displayed during that winning run prior to their recent struggles.

However, a glance at the standings will hammer it home nicely for the team which has one win in its last five outings and a 3-5-1 mark in December.

“There’s no room for error,” Sutter said. “You realize there’s a very small margin between winning and losing.

“You don’t like to look back on games, yet when you’re looking at games you’re ahead going into the third period or tied in the third period and come out with no points at the end of the night it adds up.

“We have dropped down in standings, but that can turn around in a week. We’ve got games in hand, and have to win them, but it’s such a tight, tight league.

“Look at pro sports, there’s nothing like the NHL as far as parity.”

Wednesday's clash is the only game this week for the Flames. However, they’ll return to action with a vengeance after the Christmas break.

Starting Dec. 27, they play five games in seven nights, but that’s on the horizon.

Ahead is a meeting with a Blues team that dropped them in a 4-3 game just over a week ago in St. Louis and arrives in Calgary looking to beat all three Western Canada teams.

The Blues beat Vancouver 3-1 Sunday night and thrashed Edmonton 7-2 the next evening.

“I don’t know exactly what their record is away from home, but it’s pretty good,” Regehr said of the Blues’ 10-3-3 mark on the road.

“For us, we just have one game and then a Christmas break, and we’ve had a couple of days for practices, so there’s no excuse for not coming out and playing a great game.

“We used to have good starts and jump on teams early, and we’ve gone away from that lately. I think that’s what we need to do against a team like that, playing well.”

The Flames spent the last couple of days using practice as a refresher course. Much of their recent struggles stem from breakdowns, and the message has been to concern themselves with their play.

“With the way the schedule has been, we don’t get a lot of practice days,” said defenceman Dion Phaneuf. “Throughout the year, there’s maybe more recovery days. It’s more short, quick practices, get a bit of sweat and feel the puck, but not a lot of time to work on system play.

“These last couple of days have been good for our team. Now we focus on (today).”


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