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Flames look to squash Honda Center slump

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- It took a few minutes for the question to be breached in coach Bob Hartley’s scrum Monday.

But it didn’t catch him off guard. Not one bit.

And without hesitation, Hartley tackled the futility of his Calgary Flames when it comes visiting the Anaheim Ducks, as only he can.

“I knew it was coming. I knew it was coming,” he doubled up. “Elvis was starting to sing, I think, the last time we won in Anaheim. Obviously we’re praying, and we go. The good part is we’re playing very well and we’re going on the road trip in a good frame of mind.

“We’re going there to win.”

The Flames haven’t in the regular season since Jan. 19, 2004.

Not since now-assistant coach Martin Gelinas -- who hasn’t suited up for an NHL game since 2007-08 -- scored the game-winner, and now-assistant general manager Craig Conroy -- who’s last skate came in 2010 -- had four assists in a 5-1 victory over the Mighty Ducks at the then-named Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim.

Only one active NHLer remains from the Flames side: Andrew Ference, now of the Edmonton Oilers.

Since? Fifteen regulation losses. Five ties. Zero wins.

The Happiest Place on Earth has been far from it for the Flames.

The chance to erase, or at least mute, that history comes Tuesday.

But, as forward Joe Colborne put it, Calgary isn’t trying to undo over a decade of misery at Honda Center with one win.

“I think it’s something for you (media) to talk about more than us,” said Colborne, 11 days shy of his 14th birthday when Roman Turek became the most recent Flames goaltender to win in Anahiem. “Each time you have a new team like we have this year, you go in there with a fresh outlook on things. It’s not going there feeling like we have 15-whatever years of losses that we have to atone for.

“We have a huge game against a divisional rival and a team we know we’re going to be battling with for the rest of the year. We know we have to go in there and steal two points from a good team that plays well at home.”

The message isn’t to try to erase history, which does feature one win -- a playoff game in 2006 -- at Honda Center.

The message is to take a two-game win streak, both at Scotiabank Saddledome, on the road for three games featuring Pacific Division opponents.

Do well away, and climb up the standings.

“This whole trip’s a big trip,” captain Mark Giordano said. “Anaheim’s going to be a hungry team. They’re a team that’s desperate for points like we are. Our mindset has to be keep playing that aggressive style that we’ve been playing lately and try to carry that over onto the road.”

Start with exonerating some struggles at the Ducks, who sit one point up on the Flames on Tuesday.

Follow it up Friday in the desert with a date against the Arizona Coyotes, who have a four-point cushion on Calgary.

Conclude against the Pacific-leading San Jose Sharks on Saturday.

“This is a big road swing,” Hartley said. “We will need everyone on this swing. We’re playing against three teams that we need to beat. We want to get back in the playoff picture. We need to win some games, and more importantly to play very well and gain some ground.

“We just have to keep winning our segments. If we keep winning our segments, we’re going to leap over some teams ahead of us right now and that’s the goal. In our situation, it’s not a one-game shot right now that’s going to allow us to leap over four, five teams. It’s going to be accumulating points on those short-term segments that will allow us to do it.”


Hartley’s plan starts with the Ducks, who like Calgary have struggled to hit their stride early in the season. Anaheim sports a 7-10-4 record and has averaged just 1.74 goals-per-game, second-worst in the NHL.

There’s still no taking the team that bounced the Flames from the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs lightly.

“We still believe they’re a top team in the league,” Giordano said. “They have a lot of top players. They had a tough start much like we did. Sometimes you go through some tough times. We know they’re going to be a pretty desperate team. They need the points just as much as we do. It’s a tough place to go play.”

The Ducks were shut out five times in the opening eight games of the 2015-16 season, and managed just six goals. Anaheim has since rebounded from a 2-7-2 start to earn points in seven of the past 10 games.

“It’s just to show that we’re all human beings,” Hartley said. “Some days it goes well, some days it goes bad. Some weeks it goes well; some weeks it goes bad. You don’t control. They’re a great hockey club. They have lots of talent. A little bit like us, they had a tough start and I’m sure they’re looking for ways to get back on track and we’re looking for ways to get back on track also.”

NOTES: Kris Russell didn’t skate with the team Monday but Hartley said he “should be in the lineup [Tuesday]” against the Ducks…Karri Ramo is expected to make his 11th consecutive start in net…Hartley also said goaltender Jonas Hiller is close to returning from a lower-body injury…Jiri Hudler, who missed Friday’s game due to illness and practice Saturday, rotated with Micheal Ferland in practice.

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