Searching for sparks

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 12:11 PM ET

Failing to find a spark at home this year has cost the Calgary Flames points too often this season.

It might start costing them fans, too.

Losing a fourth straight game at the Saddledome with a 1-0 decision in favour of the visiting Nashville Predators Friday, e-mails rife with disappointment are trickling into reporters' inboxes.

Some suggest they've expressed their displeasure to the Flames organization, too.

All in attendance for the latest lackadaisical Dome display certainly voiced theirs, raining boos after the final buzzer following the Flames' first scoreless game of the year.

Earning just 27 of a possible 50 points with a 12-10-3 record in 25 games at the Saddledome (a 54% success rate), the Flames have allowed too many to slip their grasp because of a failure to emotionally engage in many games despite having sellout crowds to fuel and then feed from.

"We weren't engaged," said head coach Brent Sutter of the loss to the Predators. "That's a word that seems to get thrown around here a lot."

Fans are tiring of it. Coaches can't be happy, either. The problem isn't limited to one or two players -- it's a team issue -- but it starts with the leaders.

Flames captain Jarome Iginla has to start inspiring others around him to be better.

First, he has to be better.

The only thing he's engaged in at the moment is a seven-game goal drought and six contests without a point -- the longest pointless skid for Iginla since a six-game spell in November of 1997.

In the six-game span, Iginla owns a minus-3 rating.

He has 21 shots, with 10 of them coming in his two best efforts against the Canucks in Vancouver and the Colorado Avalanche at home.

Iginla's been an enigma much of the season, struggling at both ends of the ice early in the year before making opposing defences miserable with 13 goals and 20 points in 14 November games. His efforts have been inconsistent since -- four goals and 13 points in 22 games.

Frustrating most fans are the glimpses of the old Iginla so many who helped form the Sea of Red during the 2004 playoff drive remember seeing regularly from the captain during that run.

His recent effort against the Canucks -- unfortunately for the locals coming in Vancouver and not at the Dome -- was one of his best of the season despite the fact he didn't score or get an assist in the six-shot performance.

Slamming his 6-foot-1, 207-lb. frame into defenceman Kris Letang early in this week's loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Iginla looked fired up. But it was a tease, much like the Vancouver game, or his three-point effort against the Toronto Maple Leafs Jan. 2 -- the last time he found the back of the net.

He's not alone in his scoring woes. The Flames have managed nine goals total in the last six games. They've potted three or more in only seven games since November.

As good as they've been defensively, they need more offensive support.

"We've got the one side of it going, the defensive side of the game going very well. We're getting very good goaltending. Blocking a lot of shots, keeping the shots down," Iginla said Friday night.

"It's no secret we need to score goals."

The captain and his fellow Flames are positive it will happen, and trying to stay positive until it does.

"It's all you can do. You stay positive and you keep working. We've scored goals before," Iginla said.

"It's obviously a tough drought."

STEVE.MACFARLANE@SUNMEDIA.CA


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