Though they've been blanked five times in their past seven games as part of a slump that has seen the team win just two of their past 10 games, the Calgary Flames aren’t willing to accept a losing attitude.
And though the team is in a rebuilding phase, coach Bob Hartley will accept no excuse.
“We’re not saying that it’s okay to lose,” Hartley said following Friday’s practice at WinSport. “It’s part of our presentation because the standards and the expectations of this organization, starting from ownership to management down to the coaching staff, down to everyone, we want to give our fans in Calgary the best possible hockey.
“We know that we’re building right now and from the outside it’s easy to say that there’s no progress but from the inside, I can say that some players have done quite well under the circumstances. Right now, we just have to find a way to reward ourselves.”
Hartley feels his team has put in the work.
It’s just a matter of finding those rewards. It’s just a matter of finding a way to make the team’s hard work pay off.
“If we want to check some things that the team should do, the attitude of the players, getting the most of the players, competing in basically every game, I think that we’ve done this,” he said. “You see practices every day. We don’t dog it. We work. We work, we get on the ice and it’s business.”
FRUSTRATION FOR GOOD
Calgary’s hard work needs to start paying off, though.
Captain Mark Giordano admitted that the lack of success lately has the Flames feeling frustrated.
“We have a good group of guys but when you’re losing, it’s tough after games,” he said. “We have to let those go and then come back the next day with a positive mind set and we have to find a way. It’s a lot easier when you’re winning games and getting good results.”
But the kind of frustration in Calgary’s dressing room isn’t necessarily a negative sign, the 30-year-old veteran pointed out.
“There is some frustration going on with our team but at the same time, you have to use that frustration in a good way, in a positive way,” Giordano admitted. “You can’t be down and coming to the rink like today. Today’s a practice day and you have to have a good practice day and coming into tomorrow you have to be upbeat.”
GOALIES HOLDING ON
That might be most challenging for the goaltending duo of Karri Ramo and Reto Berra.
The pair have surrendered 11 goals over the past two games, something Giordano admits is more a reflection on the team being too focused on scoring goals and not attentive enough on their own end.
“I think we’re giving up too much again defensively and the puck’s in our zone for too long a period of time,” he said. “We can’t get away from that side of things just because our offense isn’t going. We have to be really solid defensively again and we’ll get our chances offensively and we’ll score.’
“We feel like the last couple games we’ve let our defensive play slip a little bit, giving (the other team) good chances. We’ve got to get back to helping (our goaltenders) out.”
Before a 6-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday and Thursday’s 5-0 setback to the St. Louis Blues, the combination of Berra and Ramo had given up just 11 goals in five games. The Flames were shut out in three of those contests.
“That’s part of being a goalie,” Hartley said. “Sometimes it’s not always fair but at the same time, both guys I give them credit. They work so hard and they’re positive and they want to help. They’re doing their share and everyone wants to help.
“We’ve said it all along the way. We have two guys capable of winning hockey games, playing well for us and I don’t see why one would get penalized more than the other or why one would get more opportunities than the other. Both guys, we’re very happy with them.”
NO TIMETABLE FOR JONES
David Jones didn’t skate alongside teammates as he remains sidelined with an eye infection. Hartley remained upbeat about his forward, though, poking fun at Jones’ expense.
“I’ll buy him a parrot because he has a bad eye,” Hartley said. “Put a patch on. Get him a parrot."
With a more serious tone, Hartley admitted Jones hasn't made much progress.
“It’s lingering. At first it was, we’ll give him a day off and see. He’s on antibiotics. Right now the progress, as you can see, is pretty slow.”
The injury to Jones, who also missed four games early in the year with a lower body injury, was thought to be minor. But the 29-year-old has missed three straight with the ailment with no return in sight.
“First we thought it would be very minor,” Hartley said. “He’s missed three games, four games and he’s not on the ice.”
“I was sitting in Zurich when Jay Feaster first called me and we painted the picture and I’ve said it last year. This is the biggest challenge of my career and no one put a gun to my head to come here. I came here because I wanted to be part of this rebuild and now Burkie is in so my plan hasn’t changed. The one thing I’m going to say is that they’re very supportive of what we’re doing. They’re with us and the players have been great. We keep pushing them and tomorrow, hopefully we score six.”
The Flames host Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday (8 p.m. MT, CBC).