SUN Hockey Pool

Time for Flames to rewind

Flames forward Brendan Morrison collides with Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery at the United Center...

Flames forward Brendan Morrison collides with Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery at the United Center in Chicago, Ill., Dec. 18, 2011. (JOHN GRESS/Reuters)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:41 PM ET

CALGARY - The Calgary Flames must forget the past.

At least they must omit from memory the most recent days during which they lost all four games during their winless road trip.

Still, it may not be best to wipe away everything from the recent memory banks.

The way defenceman Chris Butler sees it, he and his Flames teammates must do some time-warp action back to how things were working before they left Calgary.

It’s their best chance heading into the trio of games this week against top clubs in the NHL’s Western Conference, starting with Tuesday’s clash against the Minnesota Wild at the Saddledome (7 p.m., Sportsnet West, Sportsnet 960).

“We need to get back to the way we were playing 10 days ago,” Butler said in the aftermath of Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. “That’s dumping pucks in the zone, not turning over pucks in the neutral zone, giving up odd-man rushes and taking undisciplined penalties.

“Those are great hockey clubs, they have been for a while and are playing good hockey right now. For the last couple of games, we’re not.”

Santa’s visit is on the horizon, but before the Flames can carve any turkeys or serve up egg nog, they have home dates Thursday and Friday, respectively, with the Wild and the Detroit Red Wings before ending the pre-Christmas portion of the season in Vancouver to face the Canucks.

That would be a tough task at the best of times, but these three games finish a stretch of seven games in 10 nights for the Flames — and in all four NHL timezones.

“It would be a huge momentum boost four our team to win these games,” Butler said. “We’ve played all three of those teams, and we’re 1-1 against Minnesota and 1-1 against Detroit. Then, we didn’t play well against Vancouver the couple times we’ve seen them.

“Those are teams we know exactly what we’re going to get, and the way we’ve played in the third periods of the last few games, we have to find a way to recreate that for 60 minutes night in and night out.”

Right now, the Flames need to once put together a complete performance.

The Flames failed to have a strong first period in any of their losses to the Nashville Predators, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Florida Panthers and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Sure, they had a chance to win three of those games, but the slow starts came at a cost.

The Blackhawks happily took advantage of the Flames’ sub-par starts, and this week’s opposing teams have the talent to do the same.

“That’s why we can’t play like we did (Sunday),” Flames head coach Brent Sutter said. “You can’t play that way against any team, let alone top teams in the National Hockey League and think you have a chance to win. So we need to get back home and hit the re-start button and get going at what we are about as a team.”

That brings us back to Butler’s theory on what it will take for the Flames to get back to winning.

“Simplify things,” Butler said. “When things aren’t going your way, I think at times you tend to start doing things more one-on-one plays. In this league, you’re not going to beat five guys. You’re not going to create chances that way. We need to do things as five-man units when we’re on the ice.

“That’s when we’re good.”

Added Flames winger Lee Stempniak, “You’ve got to go home and recover and reflect why we came up short. It’s a pretty disappointing road trip for us on the whole. I think everyone knows why it was disappointing, but it’s time to learn from it and move on.

“The key word is refocus. We have to play a certain way to win, so it’s time to stick with that identity and do the three or four things that make us successful.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak


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