SUN Hockey Pool

Flames ace chemistry test

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:44 AM ET

CALGARY — Benefits of their lengthy road trip go well beyond the few points they brought home.

The Flames felt more like a team returning home to Calgary Wednesday after a three-game trek through Sunrise, Tampa and Ottawa.

They only managed to earn three points with a 1-1-1 record, but the six fresh faces — seven if you include rookie Mikael Backlund — got to spend some quality time with their teammates before the Olympic break.

The hope is it will pay off with cohesiveness on the ice.

“No wives, no girlfriends, no family — you just hang around with the guys as much as you can,” said newcomer Christopher Higgins, who came over from his hometown New York Rangers along with Ales Kotalik in the Olli Jokinen/Brandon Prust trade. “The better you get along with guys off the ice, the better you play with them on the ice.

“It was nice to have a little road trip to start.”

It was more than a little road trip. The journey started with back-to-back games against the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Staying the night in Tampa Saturday before travelling to Ottawa for Tuesday’s date with the Senators offered them their first of two straight evenings together.

Sunday’s Super Bowl was spent in an Ottawa restaurant before they got back on the ice to practice Monday.

“At home you kind of go your separate ways. When you’re on the road you see a lot more of each other. There’s lots of excuses to hang out,” said defenceman Cory Sarich. “The Super Bowl was a great one the other night. Got everybody together.

“This was just what we needed. It’s perfect timing with everything that’s gone on.”

To get a pulse on how unified the team is, you only needed to glimpse inside the visitors room in the nation’s capital following Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the Senators.

Their faces told the story. They were all on the same page — all extremely unhappy.

But the looks exchanged now include the newcomers. Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Ian White, Jamal Mayers, Ales Kotalik, and Higgins.

They’ve been integrated.

No longer can they use the excuse of getting to know each other.

They’ve got the basics down now after essentially starting from scratch after Flames GM Darryl Sutter swapped out more than a quarter of his roster in a couple of days little more than a week ago.

“It’s huge, just to figure out where a guy comes from. Whether he’s married, single, has kids. You kind of have to jam-pack it into a short period of time,” said Sarich, who figured he’d do well on a quiz.

“I think I’d be able to get most of them. Don’t ask me any names of kids, but I think I know who’s got what and who’s marrying who, and who is and isn’t married.

“All the basics.”

What happens next is anyone’s guess.

We don’t know how good this new team is.

They all believe the time they spent together on the road will benefit them in the long run.

“They’re great guys. You get that familiarity with them and it’s a good thing,” said forward Dustin Boyd. “It makes you feel like they’re part of the team now.

“Chemistry, bonding, it’s huge for a team.”

Breaking for the Olympics will give them all a chance to settle after an undoubtedly difficult and busy baptism as Flames.

They’ll come back considering Calgary home.

“The guys who have come in are excited to be here — that’s important — and have come in with a great attitude,” said captain Jarome Iginla.

“You know what? They want the same things we do. We all want to be part of a really good team.”

Making it happen is up to them.


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