Flames have revenge on mind

STEVE MACFARLANE, Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:39 PM ET

Impressive.

Five goals against the tight-checking New Jersey Devils.

Their first post-Olympic win, and a feel-good night that saw almost every element of their game come together at times.

So what will the Calgary Flames do for an encore Sunday afternoon on the road against the Minnesota Wild — a team that trounced them 4-0 at the Saddledome just days ago?

“They embarrassed us on home ice,” said Flames forward Christopher Higgins. “So hopefully we can do the same to them.”

It’ll take a lot more of what they did against the Devils, and none of what they showed against the Wild in their previous outing to get that done.

Higgins looks forward to proving the Flames are taking to heart head coach Brent Sutter’s constant preaching about going to the net to score the dirty, ugly, often painful goals.

“As far as Daymond (Langkow) and I go, those are where we’re going to score most of our goals,” Higgins said of his centre.

His other winger, Ales Kotalik, has a cannon of a shot, so if he’s got the puck, the blue paint is the place to be for rebounds.

“Lesh (Kotalik) has got that ability to shoot the puck from anywhere, he can score from anywhere in the zone.

“He adds a different element to the line.”

The element Sutter is looking for — has been all season — is the willingness to pay a price to score goals.

Whether or not Friday night’s 5-3 win over the Devils was an anomaly or a sign of things to come will go a long way in determining if this team, which has seen a third of its makeup change over the last five weeks, can come together and make a serious run to the playoffs.

With six new faces joining the team in deals coming on back-to-back days Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, and another pair added to the mix March 3 at the trade deadline, Sutter had to start from scratch teaching a crash course.

Those who have been here all season may finally be catching on, but the best sign of progress has been from the new players understanding and adapting despite the lack of time.

Sutter says it’s because they’re all smart players that it can happen quickly. For his team, the hope is it’s quickly enough to make a difference and make the post-season.

They’ll have to get down and dirty in front of the net on a regular basis for that to take place.

“If we want to have success, if we want to score, that’s what we have to do,” Sutter said Saturday. “It’s been talked about since Day 1 at training camp. We need to be a team that gets into those areas. There’s not a lot of pretty goals scored in the National Hockey League because of the parity level.

“It’s not a glorious area to go into when you know you’re going to get beat on a little bit, but it’s an area that’s glorious in the fact that you get rewarded.”

Higgins was rewarded Friday night with his first point as a member of the Flames, charging to the net and giving Langkow a chance to capitalize on the rebound.

His line’s play on the ice has gradually improved, and Higgins is impressed with the feeling in the dressing room right now.

“I really like the guys on the team. It’s really been a pretty close group since we all got together,” he said.

“It’s been a really big change for this organization with pretty much a third of the roster changing. I think we’ve moved faster than I thought as far as coming together.

“It’s a fun time of year to be playing, so I’m glad we’ve become so close as a team already.”


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