Flames show true grit

Flames forward Mike Cammalleri trips on the stick of Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick as forward...

Flames forward Mike Cammalleri trips on the stick of Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick as forward Jarret Stoll looks on at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif., Jan. 19, 2012. (LUCY NICHOLSON/Reuters)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:54 PM ET

CALGARY - So far, so good.

With three of a possible four points through two-thirds of their current road trip, the Calgary Flames can consider this one a success.

The last one was a disaster, with the team dropping five straight during their post-Christmas trek and finishing with a 9-0 loss to the Boston Bruins.

It might also have served as motivation for getting back on track with a week-long trip that ends Saturday night in Edmonton (8 p.m., CBC/Sportsnet 960).

They know how badly those losses hurt them in the hunt for an NHL playoff spot and how quickly they have to turn things around to have a shot at finishing in the top eight in the Western Conference.

“Every game gets bigger — they’re all big games for us,” said Flames head coach Brent Sutter, whose team followed up a shootout loss Tuesday against the Sharks in San Jose with a shootout victory Thursday over the Kings in Los Angeles.

“We wanted to come here on this trip and get ourselves in the right frame of mind. Let’s be an aggressive team. Let’s not play on our heels, let’s be on our toes, and let’s go after it.

“These two games we did that — now, we get to carry on. We go back up to the cold weather, and we’ve got to do the same thing there.”

The weather may be cold, but the team is warming up again.

Goals have been tough to come by — they’ve scored just three in regulation and one in overtime in their last four games — but they’re comfortable with the idea of eking out a 1-0 or 2-1 victory if that’s what it takes.

“I think we’re a lot grittier in last couple games. It’s gonna enable us to climb back in these playoffs,” said Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who scored the team’s only goal in regulation Thursday.

“We don’t expect them all to be 1-0 or 2-1. It’s just the compete level. I think in our last couple of games everybody’s competed really hard. Being a little bit more physical, a little harder on pucks …

“I think the compete level, the effort — that second and third effort from guys, blocking shots and those types of things — is what we’re gonna need to climb back in.”

Teammate Blake Comeau says they’re prepared for that playoff-type style well before the playoffs actually start.

“I think so,” Comeau said. “That’s what it’s gonna be like the second half of the season — not a lot of easy games and easy chances.”

The key is setting the tone early, especially on the road where the Flames have struggled much of the season.

“Just good starts and carrying it on from there,” Comeau said. “I think our last road trip we struggled because we came out not hard enough in the first period. Teams at home, obviously, have that jump, so you’ve got to weather that and push back, and I think that’s what we’ve done the first two games on this trip.”

They’ve done that against two good teams, too.

The Kings and the Sharks are among the conference’s best clubs.

Proving with a pair of strong games they can hang with the top dogs, the Flames just have to find the kind of consistency that has eluded them all season in order to fulfil their hopes of joining them in the post-season.

“There’s a certain way we need to play and a certain way we’re gonna play. It allows us to have success when we do it the right way,” Sutter said for the thousandth time this year.

“I just liked our emotional level. I liked our intensity. I liked how we’d just compete and stay with it and stay with it,” the coach added of the California portion of the trip.

“There was lots of emotion again both on the ice and in the dressing room and on the bench.”

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane


Videos

Photos