SUN Hockey Pool

Hawk-ward situation for Flames

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:32 PM ET

At first glance, the schedule maker didn't do the Calgary Flames a favour with Thursday's outing.

Coming off Monday's 9-1 thrashing at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, the Flames are under the gun to rebound with a big performance.

It would be easier against one of the league's weak sisters.

Instead, they face the Chicago Blackhawks, a first-place team in the hunt for the NHL's regular-season title and a club which has owned the Flames this season.

"It's great," said left-winger Brandon Prust at the prospect of playing the Windy City crew.

"I don't think there's a better test than Chicago for us right now. It's great. We have to be fired up for this one."

After the debacle in San Jose, the Flames should be fired up to play anybody.

"We're forgetting that game, pushing it behind us and moving forward. We'll take that game as a learning tool, use it to make us a better team," Prust said.

"Chicago, we've had our troubles with them and struggles with them, but we can't go into the game thinking about them. We've got to go in there with the confidence and the swagger we had. This barn is a tough place for visiting teams to come, to and we've got to live up to that. It doesn't matter who comes in here, we've got to punish them."

The mettle test provided by the Blackhawks will be at another level.

The 'Hawks have already twice embarrassed the Flames this season. First was the infamous October clash when Calgary gassed a five-goal, first-period lead and lost 6-5 in overtime.

The second was a 7-1 shellacking at the Saddledome in November.

That's on top of knocking the Flames out in the first round of the playoffs last spring.

A theory making the rounds is the Blackhawks are in the Flames' heads.

"We've got some history with these guys, last year and spilling into this year," defenceman Cory Sarich said.

"We want to make good on it. We want to get things going in the right direction. I don't think there's much love for those guys in this dressing room."

The game plan for the hosts is to not think too much about the 'Hawks but instead focus within their own dressing room.

"All we should be thinking about is what we need to do with our game," Flames defenceman Robyn Regehr said. "We're going through a tough stretch, and there are a lot of things we need to improve upon. It doesn't matter really who the opponent is, we know they are a good team. They are a skilled team. We have to play a certain way, and if we do that, we will give ourselves a chance to win."

That is the message Flames head coach Brent Sutter has been preaching.

"They are a very good team, and you have to be respectful, but you have to play against them," Sutter said.

"You have to play them at a high level. Right now, it's more about what we're about. Whether it's Chicago, San Jose, New Jersey, Detroit -- name every team in the league -- it's about how we need to play as a team. When we play like we can, like we're supposed to, like what you want to see on a daily basis -- we're a very effective team. We have to be consistent, and it has to start now."

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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