Flames need to keep it tight

SCOTT FISHER, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 1:50 PM ET

It's no secret the Calgary Flames are struggling to find the back of the net.

The goal-scoring drought reached rock bottom Friday night as the club was blanked for the first time this season.

But don't expect Flames head coach Brent Sutter to loosen the reins on his players in an attempt to find more offence.

Playing in tight games, like Friday's 1-0 loss to the Nashville Predators, is something his squad needs to get used to.

"Is it difficult? I guess it depends on how strong you are mentally," Sutter said when asked if it's a challenge to play with such a small margin for error. "We have to stay with it. We're not, all of a sudden, changing the type of team we are. If we play a high-risk game, that game becomes a 6-0 game."

The Flames bench boss said the tight defensive system the club employs is not to blame for the dry spell that has produced six straight games with two or fewer goals in regulation time.

"You don't score goals by all of a sudden becoming a high-risk hockey team," Sutter said.

"(The goal-scoring drought) has nothing to do with systems. It has zero to do with that. Actually, our systems are what have allowed us to create some offence -- any offence that we have been getting."

Friday's loss aside, the Flames have generated a decent amount of shots.

But Sutter questioned the players' willingness to go to the dirty areas in search of rebounds and tip-ins.

"We never did enough in the offensive zone of getting the guys to go to the net hard enough," Sutter said. "We had shots from the back end, and we played too much perimeter hockey.

"We've got to stay with it and have a very workman-like approach to this. We can't hang our heads. We have to find our way through this."

If there's one glaring area that needs to be addessed offensively, it's the impotent powerplay, which has produced just one goal in the last 22 opportunities (4.5%) over the past seven tilts.

"At certain points in games, you need your powerplay to step up, and our powerplay wasn't very good again," Sutter added.

One breakdown

All it took was one breakdown to turn a tie game into a 1-0 loss Friday against the Nashville Predators.

Veteran centre Craig Conroy, who had a great night in the faceoff circle, winning 13-of-17 draws, was willing to shoulder the blame for Patric Hornqvist's winner late in the third period.

"I made a mistake on the last goal," Conroy said. "I got on the other side of my guy.

"That won't happen again."

But it was defenceman Robyn Regehr who turned the puck over, leaving Conroy out of position.

Either way, Flames head coach Brent Sutter said it was unacceptable.

"When the goals aren't going in the net like you'd like them to, you have to be really sharp on the defensive side of it," Sutter said. "When you give up a goal with six minutes left, it was just a breakdown. You can't have those breakdowns in your own zone.

"When it's a zero-zero game with that much time left, you've gotta make sure you're flawless in your own zone and flawless in the neutral zone, and you have to be on the attack in the offensive zone.

"We were pretty soft on that play in our zone."

SCOTT.FISHER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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