Avoiding box a good call

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:00 PM ET

 The Calgary Flames now have the advantage in their playoff series with Vancouver.

The best way to keep that advantage is to prevent the Canucks from gaining the man-advantage in Game 6 tonight at the Saddledome (8 p.m., CBC).

Even though the Flames have been effective on the penalty kill since allowing four powerplay goals in Game 1, they feel the key to eliminating the Canucks is staying out of the penalty box.

Vancouver has averaged about six powerplay opportunities per game so far in the series, which the Flames lead 3-2.

"We've taken a few too many penalties," said Flames defenceman Jordan Leopold after yesterday's team meeting and optional practice at the 'Dome.

"It has ended up hurting us and almost costing us games and we can't afford to do that right now."

It would be more costly if the Canucks were scoring on a regular basis with the man-advantage.

But the Flames have allowed just three powerplay goals in the last four games.

That has helped them boost their penalty killing efficiency to a respectable 75.8% since Game 1's 33.3% disgrace.

"But we don't want to be relying on our penalty kill to keep us in the game," said Flames defenceman Denis Gauthier.

"I think three penalties in our books is max. I think we've gotta keep it to three and under, although it is hard because the referees are paying close attention to things and the intensity and emotions are high.

"We've got to find a way to stay out of that darn box. It's frustrating and it makes it tough to try and use all the stuff we've been talking about -- our speed, our aggressiveness, our physical play -- when you're killing penalties."

The Canucks, meanwhile, rank among the best in these playoffs on the powerplay. Their 24.1% efficiency was third best among the 16 teams heading into last night's action.

In fact, seven of their nine goals in this series have come with the man-advantage, including their only marker Thursday night in Game 5, when Sami Salo's shot glanced in off Henrik Sedin.

But it could have been worse, especially early when the Flames were flagged for four minors in the first period.

"We've talked about this after Game 1 -- we're still taking too many penalties," said Flames assistant coach Rich Preston, the club's special teams guru.

"We bit the bullet there early (Thursday) when we killed them off.

"They finally got one there in the second period. Most of those penalties (were deserved). We can't take those penalties. We gave them six powerplays -- that's three or four too many. So we've really got to be careful."


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