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Flames look to reset after loss to Jets

by George Johnson @GeorgejohnsonCH /

Not the sort of caviar-and-Moet Chandon homecoming Chad Johnson had envisioned, by any means.

The consolation being, they're still very much in the hors d'oeuvre stage.

The main course doesn't actually start being served at the Scotiabank Saddledome until Friday the 14th.

"It was just … a weird game,'' stammered the Calgary-reared netminder, so happy to be home and wearing the jersey of the team he'd grown up supporting, after being touched for the first three goals in a 4-0 loss pre-season loss to the Winnipeg Jets. "There wasn't a lot of action.

"Going in, I felt prepared, felt ready.

"For me … I didn't get any shots. Didn't get any rhythm.

"The first one went in, the second took a weird bounce. Then the second period, not a lot of shots there, either, and the guy comes down and makes a good shot.

"We were all over them, really, Took it to them the first two periods.

"You sort of realize it is pre-season, thank whoever for the fact that it is.

"And kind of you move on from it."

Swiftly. Decisively. And without so much as a backward glance.

"With our whole group, even our established NHLers, we need more work on our systems,'' acknowledged coach Glen Gulutzan, taking stock with two dry-run games left on the docket. "I think even the Amercian League guys (fighting for jobs), outside of the speciality teams, our 5-on-5 systems have been pretty solid.

"You just saw some younger mistakes on pinches and turnovers and it costs you.

"When you're evaluating guys you want to see who can play within a system, especially one as detailed as we want our penalty-kill to be.

"That we're evaluating."

The Jets jumped in front less than five minutes in, Chase De Leo swinging wide around Flames' defenceman Jyrki Jokipakka and spotting right winger Scott Kosmachuk making a beeline for the front of the net. Inexplicably unaccounted for, Kosmachuk converted a bang-bang play.

On the second Winnipeg goal - the Jets' first of two via the power play - Flames' defenceman Brett Kulak and Johnson got their signals crossed, the puck kicking in front for D-man Ben Chiarot to whack home at 18:41.

Two goals on three shots.

The second stanza began with the Flames storming the Bastille. Mikael Backlund, making his first post-World Cup appearance, rang a shot off the crossbar, while the line of Sam Bennett, Matthew Tkachuk and Alex Chiasson (subbing for Troy Brouwer) made life claustrophobic for Winnipeg inside its own blueline.

Then, out of the blue, against the run of play, another Jet defenceman joining the rush - this time Mark Stuart - stuffing the ol' pimento in the olive, picking the corner high over Johnson's catching glove at 8:54.

Three goals on six shots.

Johnson's replacement, Jon Gillies, was dented on the first shot he faced, Paul Postman wiring home the third goal by a rearguard at 10:49.

Yes, that kind of night.

Tellingly, though, another power play strike.

While the Jets were humming along at 2-for-3 holding a man advantage, Calgary's PP was limping home 0-for-4 despite a slew of gilt-edge opportunities.

"If you look at the whole game, we've talked about the whole training camp - speciality teams,'' said Gulutzan. "We had our chances on the powerplay. There were two or three goal posts. Some good scrambles, good shots.

"But ultimately theirs went in.

"When you lose the specialty teams game in this league, it's hard to win."

One of the most noticeable Flames was belligerent winger Brandon Bollig, who engaged in a battle royale with the Cliff Thorburn three-quarters of the way through the second period.

"I thought we did a lot of good things,'' critiqued Bollig afterwards. "We deserved a lot better than the score indicated. We make some mistakes - plenty of 'em - but we had a great first period, could've easy been up 2-0 after that.

"Given the circumstances, pre-season, the time to knock the rust off, it was a hard-working game for us. I don't think we lacked any effort.

"Not the score we wanted, though."

And the tilt?

"He's always a willing combatant. That's our first time fighting. A little bit frustration with the score and he'd gotten into it a little bit with (Matt) Stajan and some other guys.

"I'm still here for that reason and I'm willing to do it."

Among the positives to be drawn from Sunday was doubtless Backlund's return from concussion, logging nearly 10 and a half minutes, generating three shots and cranking the one off the goal post.

"I felt okay. My legs felt good. I've got to get better timing-wise. It's only my fifth game of the year.

"Obviously it sucks to lose but personally and as a team I thought we played better than the score. Our special teams weren't good enough."

Perhaps even more disappointing than the unflattering scoreline was the failure of any of the players pushing

Time is running out, and few, if any, of the candidates trying to make a statement did so against the Jets.

The idea was to so impress Gulutzan and his staff that they would be burning the midnight oil anguishing over cut-down/re-assignment deciswions.

When asked if after watching Sunday that job was now, in fact, easier, not harder, the coach replied:

"In some respects. Guys you're hoping can maybe provide some offence or on the penalty kill and if you look, we didn't get results in those two areas.

"Go back, look at the tape, look at the guys again and we'll make good informed decisions."

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