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Flames making most of extra practice time

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers /

CALGARY, AB -- The schedule, as quirky as it is, has bought newcomer Glen Gulutzan some time.

Time to implement his system.

Time to polish up special teams.

Time to get a little more comfortable.

"I'm glad it's not starting tomorrow," Gulutzan said.

"I think some veteran coaches who has been coaching a team for three or four years, like Chicago or somebody of that nature, I'm sure they're like, 'Hey lets get it going right now.' For us, we can use this time to keep going over some of the subtleties we've changed here.

"For me the timing is good."

The head coach has plenty of time to use.

The Flames concluded their pre-season schedule Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks, and won't open the season until Wednesday at Rogers Place against the Edmonton Oilers.

It leaves a lot of time for practice. 

"You just want to play games but right now for our group we need those practices," centre Sean Monahan said. "Those are going to fine-tune us and focus on little details to make sure that we're ready.

"We've got four or five practices as a group to find a way to fine-tune our game and get ready to go."

There's plenty to work on.

New coach. 

New philosophy.

New system.

Extra time will greatly help those aspects, captain Mark Giordano said.

"In a regular year you'd like to jump right in, but with our situation with new systems and stuff coming into play, this stretch is going to be huge for our team," he said. "We had a really intense practice. I thought the tempo picked up (Saturday) already, but we have to ramp it up. The next two days are really important for that.

"We've got to get our bodies ready for that intensity. Pre-season is over. It always ramps up big time, for that first game especially. Practice we're just going to work on our intensity this week and get going."

Intensity is one aspect.

X's and O's are another Gulutzan hopes to touch on. 

Under former coach Bob Hartley last season, Calgary finished 30th in the NHL in penalty killing at 75.5 percent. The power play finished 22nd at 17.0 percent.

Neither, suggested Gulutzan, are acceptable figures to repeat.

And both, Gulutzan declared, will be the focal point of Calgary's practice time moving forward.

"You can't win in the league with poor specialty teams," he said. "Now, can you win in the league if your penalty kill is not great but your power play is really good? You can have one at 24 and one at four, but you can't have them both down. That's the key.

"We're going to keep chipping away. We're going to chip away at specialty teams the whole way through. We won't finish 30th on the penalty kill. Our guys have made strides here in the pre-season. Even today I saw some things from our killers.

"We'll get to where we need to go there. Our power play, we're going to shoot the puck a lot. We're going to make that an emphasis.

"We can't have them both in the bottom half."

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