Flames need more offence

WES GIlLBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:17 PM ET

The Calgary Flames are on pace to be blanked 54 times this season.

They’ve managed just three goals in as many regular-season outings so far, the lowest total and per-game average of any team in the league.

Sure, it’s far too soon to be putting much stock in long-term stat projections, but Brent Sutter’s bunch hasn’t exactly silenced the doubters that suggested the offence would be even less explosive than it was last winter.

“We’ve just gotta do the little things, I think. If you do all the little things out there, eventually you’re going to be rewarded,” said Flames centre Matt Stajan. “If we do the little things and we get rewarded, I think it’s going to snowball.”

Based on their offensive output in the first three games of the new campaign, including shutout losses to the rebuilding Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers, there are some fans and pundits that figure the Flames don’t stand a snowball’s chance of returning to the NHL’s post-season party.

Heading into Saturday’s clash with the Edmonton Oilers at the Saddledome (8 p.m., CBC, Fan 960), only six Flames skaters have hit the scoresheet.

Among those still shooting for their first point are captain Jarome Iginla, blueliner Jay Bouwmeester and free-agent re-acquisitions Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay.

“As far as goals, I think we need to get gritter — myself definitely included,” Iginla said. “We’re standing around thinking, hoping, thinking where we’ve gotta be and we’ve just gotta play harder and play grittier and more consistently do that. That’s what type of team we’re going to be. When we’re good, that’s what we do and we need to do it more consistently.

“It’s not a system thing or anything like that, it’s just getting grittier and doing that shift-in and shift-out, line after line, and making that our style. Then we’ll score goals and we’ll have success and be better.”

It can’t get a whole lot worse than it was in Thursday’s self-described “stinker” against the Panthers, when Sutter was forced to shuffle his forward combinations in a late bid to ignite the offence.

Making his first appearance after suffering a shoulder injury in the exhibition season, Stajan was promoted to the top line in the third period, skating between Iginla and Tanguay.

Jokinen was partnered with wingers Niklas Hagman and Tim Jackman on the second unit, while Mikael Backlund, Brendan Morrison and Curtis Glencross formed the third trio.

The shake-up seemed to provide a bit of a spark, with the Flames firing 17 shots in the final frame and generating a couple of scrambly scoring chances near Tomas Vokoun’s goal-mouth.

By then, though, the majority of the congestion was outside the building, the result of thousands of disgusted fans leaving their seats early to avoid traffic jams.

After Friday’s team meeting and short practice session at Westside Recreation Centre, the Flames insisted it’s a matter of just doing the little things right.

“Let’s not try to be too fancy, too cute,” Tanguay said. “Let’s get pucks to the net. Let’s get our feet moving. Let’s be first on the puck. Let’s be hungry for it. And then, good things will happen.”

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca

Twitter.com/WesGilbertson


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