Sutter reminds Flames to stay the course

Nashville Predators Pekka Rinne makes the save on Brendan Morrison and Lee Stempniak during...

Nashville Predators Pekka Rinne makes the save on Brendan Morrison and Lee Stempniak during Saturday's 2-0 victory by the visitors at the Saddledome. (Al Charest/QMI Agency)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:46 PM ET

CALGARY -- First, the defencemen disappeared.

Then, just as they came back to the benches, the forwards trotted off the ice one-by-one.

Calgary Flames head coach Brent Sutter had an important message for each and every member of his team Monday.

Keep your chins up.

In spite of a start that has seen them win just two of their first seven games this season, Sutter likes the progression he’s seen.

He wanted to re-enforce that fact Monday at the Saddledome but didn’t get a chance to grab them before they took the ice.

“It got tight for time, and they happened to be on the ice by then,” said Sutter, who got caught up in meetings with his staff and was reviewing video before practice began officially. “I wanted to see them all before we got on the ice. You guys wouldn’t have even seen it if they weren’t on the ice first.

“It wasn’t that big of a deal. I wanted to meet with them separately. The most important message I wanted them all to understand is, ‘Stay the course.’ Let’s not get frustrated by what’s going on. The fact is we haven’t been rewarded — we’ve played pretty well our last two games. Let’s just stay with it. Don’t get down. Keep your heads up. Keep trusting each other and believing in each other.

“Let’s not worry about what everything else is being said, or may be said, around us. Let’s just continue to stay focused on what we’re doing, because we’re doing some things pretty well right now, and we don’t want to get off that track.”

Plenty of negative comments are bound to come their way from the outside.

The team is 1-1-1 over the first half of their six-game homestand with the Colorado Avalanche — winners of every road game they’ve played so far — coming to the Dome for Wednesday’s tilt.

While able to limit the opposition from getting too many scoring chances, the Flames haven’t been able to put the puck in enough themselves to come away with points critical in the NHL Western Conference standings.

But Sutter is confident wins will come if they keep playing hard with and without the puck and limit their mistakes.

“To be honest, I think each game we’ve got better and better,” Sutter said. “We very well could be 3-0 on this homestand instead of 1-1-1. But it is what it is.

“We’re gonna continue to work on our game and continue to improve, but I like the direction we’re going in.”

Their style of game has been mentioned often over the last few days as a positive, and captain Jarome Iginla brought it up again Monday.

“We are playing the style we want to play. The last few games have been pretty solid. We play like that for the rest of the year, we’re going to get our share of wins. We’re going to be in good shape,” Iginla said.

“The key is not to get frustrated and deviate from the style we want to play.”

But what, exactly, is that style? The team has struggled to score while playing it, but the coach is sure that part will turn around if they stay with it, which is why he brought the groups in to talk about being good in every area of the ice, with and without the puck.

“That’s what we’re working on is to be a good three-zone team — good with the puck and without it,” Sutter said. “To be good without it is so important, because then you have it more. You want to be a puck-possession team. Good teams that play well without the puck, they have it more. And they’re good when they have it.

“We’re taking strides. The last three games, we’ve seen a lot of good things with the group.”

Now they just need to see some more wins.

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane


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