Flames having fun again

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:54 PM ET

Goals are coming in bunches for the Calgary Flames.

Fans are cheering the powerplay, even when it doesn't score.

Players are smiling -- sometimes even laughing -- as members of the media flood into their locker-room these days.

If it seems like a much different team than the one that started the season 1-2, shut out and outworked in their pair of early losses, it's because there is a completely altered atmosphere around it.

If there's a rallying point you're looking to put your finger on, you can start with that lengthy meeting at the Westside Recreation Centre Oct. 15.

The team has gone 4-1 since then, scoring 18 times and allowing half that number against.

More importantly, their effort has been top priority.

"We all said our piece and it went from there. It was a good thing," said defenceman Mark Giordano.

"I think we just realized what we were doing wasn't good enough up to that point. We weren't getting anything going. I think we've seen the last couple of games, you follow our system -- a lot of it comes to hard work -- you get rewarded.

"We've been playing well at both sides of the rink."

It hasn't stifled their scoring touch. In fact, it's opened up opportunities. They're playing with the puck more, forcing turnovers and creating odd-man rushes as a team instead of allowing those kinds of things to happen to them by cheating and trying to force things individually.

They want that to continue against the Edmonton Oilers at the Saddledome Tuesday night (7 p.m., Sportsnet West, Fan 960).

"To me, the bottom line is winning and being a team, and that's what we want to be like. To form that culture, everybody's got to set personal goals aside," head coach Brent Sutter said Monday after a brief practice at the Saddledome. "The individual stuff comes second.

"If you buy into the team thing, individually, you will get rewarded. It will come."

Proof of that is easy to find in the outcome of the last handful of games since an awful start had many writing the Flames off as playoff contenders just a week into the season.

"It was like the world had caved in. We just stayed to our beliefs of what we need to do and how we need to get it done, and it's shown the last few games," Sutter said, admitting again there was concern among the coaches early on, which is why they addressed things immediately.

"I know it became such a big deal to the outside that we were only so many games into it, but it was something we wanted to rectify."

Although things are much more pleasant around the Saddledome these days, Sutter constantly reminds his players what they promised earlier this month.

"It's an ongoing thing, on a daily basis," Sutter said. "Our work ethic and commitment has certainly been at a higher level and we're more where we needed to be."

Giordano knows taking that for granted would result in the Flames going right back to where they started, before the turnaround.

"Obviously we stepped it up here in the last little bit, but in saying that, we have to keep moving forward," Giordano said. "There's no room for us taking a step back."

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