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Flames set to build on best defensive effort of season

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames



CALGARY, AB
-- From captain Mark Giordano’s perspective, Thursday’s 2-1 overtime victory against the Philadelphia Flyers wasn’t the prettiest picture painted by the Calgary Flames.

But it was a necessary portrait from his troops.

“I thought that’s a good start defensively,” Giordano said. “We didn’t give up much yesterday. It might have not of been the most exciting game to watch from up top in the stands but I thought both teams did a good job and I thought it was a smart game by us. We played the right way for the entire night and didn’t give up much. We have to take that as a positive.”

Yes, it was far from a Picasso.

But it was a dramatic improvement, at least defensively, from the Flames.

Heading into the contest, Calgary had surrendered an NHL-high 56 goals, including at least four against in each of their previous six games.

And in nailing down a win in allowing just one -- their lowest total of the season -- the Flames have something to build on.

“It’s a good building block, especially on the defensive side,” coach Bob Hartley said. “I thought that our game as a unit of five in the three zones, on the defensive side of the puck, was much better. That’s what we need. That’s where it starts. No matter how many goals you score, if you give four or five a game you make it real tough on yourself. You don’t need to be a genius to figure that one out, but at the same time that’s where our game’s going to build. It was a good building block.”

Calgary limited the Flyers, starved for offence in their own right with an average of just 25 goals in 13 games and managing just five in their previous four outings, to just seven scoring chances in the contest, while goaltender Karri Ramo kicked out 26 shots in his best outing of the year.

The defensive effort, both collectively from Ramo and Calgary as a whole, is a step.

The next one comes Saturday in hosting Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“At some point you’ve got to string them together,” Giordano said. “It’s another great team who’s been playing really well themselves and really well defensively. It’ll be a challenge. I think we’ve got to play another simple game and try to keep those goals against down.”

CROSBY & CO.

Like Philadelphia, the Penguins offence has sputtered too this season. Pittsburgh has generated just 27 goals in 12 contests, five fewer than the Flames total through 14 skates, and just two more than the Flyers.

Their leader mirrors the Penguins’ offensive struggles. Crosby has just two goals and six points through the opening dozen contests, slotted in a tie for 153rd overall in NHL with the likes of Vancouver Canucks rookie Jared McCann and Leo Komarov of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“He’s an unbelievable player, and it’s just to show you…look at (Jakub) Voracek last night...zero goals before the start of the game. This is a tough league and at the same time it doesn’t always go your way. It doesn’t always go your way. The beauty of this game is that we’re working with people, and sometimes people will have struggles.

“I think that Joe Sakic went 12 games my first playoff year…12 games without a goal in the playoffs and we still made it to Game 7 of the semi-finals. You might tell me if we would’ve scored a few we might’ve been in the Final and won the Stanley Cup.

"Still, when you play the right way you still give your team a chance to win the game and that’s what he does. Look at him play in his own zone. Look at him back check. He’s doing it all for the Penguins and in my book he’s still a franchise player.”

FERLAND INCHING CLOSER

Micheal Ferland has missed the past seven games after sustaining an MCL sprain, but took a significant step to returning to Calgary’s lineup. Ferland, injured in an Oct. 23rd game against the Detroit Red Wings, rejoined teammates in practice Friday.

“He’s doing good,” Hartley said. “He got the clearance to skate with the team this morning. He’s not going to play tomorrow night but at the same time whenever you see players skate with the team it’s always good news.”

Ferland wasn’t sure exactly how he sustained the injury, which occurred when throwing a hit on a member of the Red Wings.

“I don’t know if I toe-picked on my way to hit him and maybe twisted my knee,” he said. “I don’t know. I’m not really sure what happened. It was just one of those freak incidents because it wasn’t a hard hit.

“As soon as I hit him I could feel my leg…it kind of felt my knee shifted and popped out of place and back in. I just knew right away something was wrong. It was my same knee. It wasn’t close to the injury I had when I was out for half a year. It’s feeling good right now. I’m really anxious to get back out there.”

Ferland has one assist and nine penalty minutes in seven games this season.

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