Flames huddle up

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:04 PM ET

EDMONTON - CALGARY — The Calgary Flames are trying to get a handle on it early.

Having lost two of their first three games this season, the Flames decided to huddle up Friday in preparation for Saturday’s match-up against the Edmonton Oilers.

According to head coach Brent Sutter, it was more about reinforcing a message then pressing the panic button.

“Obviously there were things that were addressed over the last day, but it’s Game 4 of an 82-game schedule,” Sutter said the morning prior to Saturday’s contest. “I know everyone (media) is making out that it’s Game 82 and it’s the difference between making the playoffs or not.

“That’s not the case right now. It’s the case that we want to get our game in order, we want to be a good hockey team, and we want to play a good game.”

The Flames started the year in a similar fashion they ended last season.

The team is struggling to score, having been shutout twice in their opening three games.

Their top line of Alex Tanguay, Olli Jokinen and Jarome Iginla had yet to register a point heading into their contest against the Oilers and were split up for the game.

“Everything is so magnified early in the season and being in Canada, the pressure mounts if you don’t get off to a solid start as a team,” Iginla said. “It’s part of it and you want to get it going in the right direction as early as possible.

“Right now I think we’re watching a little bit too much, we’re thinking a little bit too much and we’re not just playing the way we should be.”

Having been touted as possible Stanley Cup contenders heading into last season and then failing to make the playoffs, pundits in Calgary believe the team is past it’s due date. Their inability to score early in the year has strengthened that argument.

“We need to get in better areas and pay a bigger price to want to score goals,” Sutter said. “We have to direct more things at the net and have more traffic in front. We need some ugly goals and to do that you have to go to the tough areas. That’s something that’s hurt us in the past and something that we’ve addressed and we have to start doing that now and not wait until game 40 or 50 where there’s a lot heavier urgency.

“We have to learn these things and understand how important it is for us to have success as a team. We need to pay attention to all these details and pay attention to details in the structure of our game. And not for a shift here, or a shift there, or a period here, or a period there, but throughout a whole game.”

The Flames apparent lack of foot-speed was exposed in the season opener against a younger Oilers team revamped with a focus on the future.

In their defence, they were missing a number of key forwards due to injury.

“We want to play a high-tempo game, that’s part of our game too,” Sutter said. “That’s stuff that was stressed through exhibition. Its’ the way we played in the preseason, it’s the way we practiced, but we haven’t played that way yet in the regular season.

“This is not the way we want to play. We want to be a very hard-working, committed hockey team and stay with the program, stay with the structure of our game throughout the whole game. Not just for a period or a couple of shifts, it’s got to be consistent every night.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


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