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Not pleased with their effort against the Oilers on Wednesday, the Flames kicked things up a notch at practice on Thursday

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Early on, Martin Gelinas could sense storm clouds gathering.

"Something,'' admitted the Flames' assistant coach, "was just not right. For some reason. It's hard to pinpoint why.

"I don't know if it was (Connor) McDavid, or the game being their home opener, or what.

"But everything just seemed to be a little off. We seemed to be a little slow, a little behind.

"We were watching, not playing.

"A really, really good game from their standpoint. But from ours …"

Beaten 3-0 in the tilt, the Flames went back to work Thursday at the Scotiabank Saddledome with an eye towards their own home opener (Saturday, 8 p.m.), the invading Winnipeg Jets and a chance at quick redemption.

Goaltender Mike Smith notwithstanding, there's plenty to work towards improving.

"At the end of the day, I didn't like our game,'' critiqued coach Glen Gulutzan. "I'd say our game was a B-game. We were tentative, we didn't execute. I look at their game, they executed.

"I thought they brought an A-game to our B-game. And that's what happens."

At Rogers Place, the Flames were outshot (45-26), outhit (31-29), beaten in the face-off circle (34-29) and on the scoreboard.

Smith, an extremely busy fellow up north, received Thursday off with the luxury of two full days of practice prior to the Jets' arrival.

"A lot of shots, four off the head,'' Gulutzan explained of the Smith decision. "So just a maintenance day for him."

The others were well and truly put through their paces. And had no complaints.

"We weren't nearly good enough, obviously,'' acknowledged centreman Sam Bennett. "And we don't want that feeling to linger. We want to move on as quickly as possible.

"It was refreshing, coming to the rink this morning and having Jags here, to provide us with a little energy after such a disappointing start.

"We don't want to dwell on that game."

Video: Gulutzan on Jagr's first practice with the team

Ten or so hours after returning home, Gulutzan was noticeably pleased with an up-tempo, 45-minute skate Thursday. And he, too, credited 45-year-old Jaromir Jagr, marking his first practice as a Flame, in helping push the tempo.

"One thing you guys talked about is what effect does he have in the locker-room, with the young guys," he said.

"Well, it's like your business or anybody's business - you have somebody that's been at the top of that business for a long time, they get on the ice and want to show them 'Hey, I'm an NHL player. Look at me.' You want to impress, right. Because he's impressed for so long.

"So our practice today was one of our best."

Translating that practice push and polish into the second game of Hockey Night in Canada's Saturday doubleheader is crucial.

"We gotta go out there and play our game,'' said Gelinas. "I know you hear that all the time. And it sounds simple, right? Well, sometimes it's not.

"Our game is skating. Our game is being in your face. Our game is gritty hockey.

"We've got to bring the energy. That's how we get back on track.

"There aren't going to be bang-bang easy plays all the time. We can't wait for things to happen. We've got to go out and make them happen. And we didn't do that in Edmonton."

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