SUN Hockey Pool

New additions get Saddledome cheering

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:01 AM ET

CALGARY — Curtis Glencross may have had a hat trick but nobody had a better night at the ’Dome than the kids selling programs.

With six news faces and a rookie call-up in the lineup, Flames fans needed a printed roster to have a chance at identifying the new-look Flames saddled with trying to right a listing ship.

With the NHL’s worst road team in town, it didn’t take long for fans to warm to several of the new lads.

Take, for example, the loud cheer that punctuated a diving play made by Ian White early on to keep the puck in the offensive zone.

The easy joke in the press box suggested they weren’t used to seeing No. 3 make a second effort.

(Yes, that was cheap, but admit it — you laughed.)

Then there was a No. 11 (Niklas Hagman, not Freddie Sjostrom) flying around with the added feature of having hands, and a No. 21 who wasn’t trying to do everything himself.

Perhaps the most shocking development was seeing a No. 18 with the ability to finish in close.

For those at home, that would be former Leafs centre Matt Stajan, who converted a beautiful give-and-go with Jarome Iginla late in the second period that saw him take a pass in his skates, kick it to his stick in one fluid motion and shovel it past Cam Ward inches away for the eventual game-winner.

It was followed 52-seconds later by Glencross’ second of the night to break a 1-1 game against Carolina wide open, giving the Flames their second victory in 12 outings, 4-1.

OK, so their two wins come against the two conference cellar dwellers, including a ’Canes squad with just six road wins in 28 tries.

Nonetheless, they did it with four forward lines that saw four new faces on the club’s top-two units.

Ol’ reliable, Daymond Langkow, was paired with Rangers castoffs Ales Kotalik (wearing No. 26) and Chris Higgins (21), generating early pressure to get the crowd and team interested.

Iginla also saw two new faces in ex-Leafs Stajan and Hagman, providing some decent hope for future chemistry.

Playing with Eric Nystrom and Jamal Mayers (19), Glencross opened the scoring with a set of fortuitous bounces the Flames haven’t been afforded of late. His second was a nice slapper from the top of the faceoff circle that used the defenceman as a screen. The third was an empty-netter.

Rene Bourque was by far the most stable ingredient on a line that included young Mikael Backlund (60) and Dustin Boyd, who later took a Backlund slapper to the face and left the game leaking.

Adding to the confusion of the fans’ new jersey issues was the fact the visitors had a Jokinen (Jussi, not Olli), a Sutter (Brent’s son Brandon) and Ray Whitney, whose name is always included in possible Flames acquisitions. Stephane Yelle was also in Carolina silks, but no one confused him for being a Flame as he was here way back when the team showed heart every night.

Fully justified in booing the Flames off the ice following Monday night’s 3-0 goof against Philly, the crowd gave the club a warm welcome Wednesday night and were rewarded with Glencross’ lucky strike three minutes in.

A shocking 39 shots later, the Flames had won.

Overall, a fairly decent effort from a team that needed just that.

Indeed, the local fans were getting restless the last week following a seven-player trade with Toronto and a four-player swap with New York that rid the club of two big names and brought in plenty of unknown commodities.

Even though it was against Carolina, the win likely calmed a few nerves inside and outside what is suddenly the league’s most transient locker room.

Now, they’ll take their meet-and-greet on the road for a three-game set in which local TV viewers can get their first glimpse of a team that will soon determine whether the changes were for better or worse.


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