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Flames look to improve game, find identity on road trip

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

 CALGARY -- Alex Tanguay got it right on two counts.

"You know, it's still early in the season. I don't think we should be worried," said the Calgary Flames winger, whose team has a 1-2-0 record.

That being said, he quickly added that the Flames performance needs to improve as the team embarks on a four-game road trip to Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Boston.

Flames on the Road
Date/Time (MT)
Ottawa Oct. 12, 5:30 p.m. Flames PPV/ The Fan 960
Toronto Oct. 15, 5:00 p.m. CBC/The Fan 960
Montreal Oct. 17, 5:30 p.m. Flames PPV/ The Fan 960
Boston Oct. 19, 5:00 p.m. Flames PPV/The Fan 960

"I know, personally, I have to look at  myself and realize what I have to do better to help the team," said Tanguay.

Order Flames pay-per-view and watch three games in the next week

Prior to departing for Ottawa the entire team was doing the same thing -- looking in the mirror and, hopefully, realizing what type of work ethic is needed to win in the National Hockey League.

Head coach Jim Playfair said the team needs to rediscover its identity -- rediscover the grit, the grind and any other ingredient that makes the Flames tough to play against.

"We've been hoping it comes back," said Playfair. "Now it is going to be non-negotiable. We have to go get it. We have to go find it. We have to re-establish our identity. We've seen how our team has to play as players, as coaches, as management and as fans. We have to increase the work ethic details in our game."

Often teams talk about hitting the road and bonding and finding their identity. Playfair wasn't buying that line of thinking.

"I don't think it is going to get better just because we are going on the road," said Playfair. "We have to put the work in to make us a better hockey team, whether it happens in Ottawa, Toronto, Boston or Montreal."

It's not necessarily an easy sell, this Flames brand of hockey.

"It's a really hard way to play," said Playfair. "It's the hardest way to play hockey...It's closing down ice, making the battle areas confined and winning puck battles. It's simple when you look at it. The hard part is convincing ourselves that's the way we have to play from the very first shift of the game."

Calgary may have some new looks on the top lines against Ottawa as Tanguay, who started the season on the top line with Jarome Iginla and Daymond Langkow, has been practising with Matthew Lombardi and Chuck Kobasew. Kristian Huselius, meanwhile, was moved to the top line with Langkow and Iginla.

The Flames have scored four goals in their first three games. There is just one power play goal in 25 attempts. Those are concerns. But again Tanguay, the newcomer to the Flames offence, isn't pushing any panic buttons yet.

"It doesn't matter if you win 1-0 or 6-5," he explained. "Last year this team was sometimes criticized for not scoring and they won the Northwest Division. Right now we are not working hard enough to win games. It's been frustrating for everyone in this room."

Tanguay, who scored his first goal as a Flame in a 4-1 home ice loss to San Jose on Monday, knows he has to be better.

"Every time I get the puck I stop and think," he said. "It's not a thinking game. You've got to react. If you are thinking, you are usually too late."

ICING -- Flames defenceman Rhett Warrener is practising more with the team but will not play in Ottawa on Thursday. He may make a return to the line-up by the end of the road trip.

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