After picking up their 16th win of the season on Monday, the Calgary Flames have had three
days to prepare for the Colorado Avalanche on Friday and the rare extended period of practice time has been embraced by the players.
"It's been nice," chuckled Robyn Regehr. "I'm not going to complain about having a break. I think, even though we had a couple days at Christmas time, we played pretty much every other day all of December. It is nice to get a few days to practice.
"We had a chance to work on our power play, penalty kill a little bit. Those are two areas that we really need to continue to improve on in order to help us win more games."
With Darryl Sutter stepping down as the Flames general manager on Tuesday, the players have been subjected to more scrutiny than they were expecting this week but they all realize they need to keep their focus on their upcoming tilt.
"There has been some stuff off the ice that has been going on," Regehr said. "So I think everyone is really looking forward to getting back and trying to keep some of that momentum we've created in the last couple of games.
We've been playing some pretty solid hockey.
"We're trying to stay as positive as possible and trying to stay as upbeat and energetic as possible. We did have some bad news here this week but as players, we can't dwell on that too much ... you can't hang your head and dwell on negative things too long."
Regehr said his team is hoping use positive factors from their last two wins as momentum as they head into their game with the Avalanche.
"I think we played solid smart hockey. We were taking care of the puck, we were responsible with the puck and not turning it over too often. We got shots to the net, we got pucks to the net. I forget what our shot totals were but I think we were over 30 the last couple of games, which we need to continue to do."
The defenceman did pinpoint the Flames special teams play as the key to victory. In their last two games, the Flames have allowed a single power play goal in nine short-handed instances while scoring two of their own in 10 chances.
"They're a very big part of hockey games these days and you're usually going to get three or four chances on the power play and you're going to have to kill off two, three, four penalties in a game so those are crucial parts."
Getting back into the race
Sitting in 14th place in the Western Conference has left the Flames starving for wins but Alex Tanguay views Friday's game against the Avalanche
"We still play Colorado four more times," the winger said. "If you look at the standings, we're eight points behind them. You beat them four times, there's the eight points right there.
"It doesn't mean we're going to beat them four times but it certainly gives you an opportunity when you play teams in your conference, to get back very quickly and in the thick of things. We're certainly looking at those games as important as any there is in our schedule."
Regehr acknowledged the added emphasis teams place on playing teams within their own division but given the club's situation, the blueliner sees every game in the same manner.
"They're all important to us. We're chasing down 13 teams ahead of us so for me personally, it really doesn't matter who we're playing. We need the same result and we need to play the same way. Those are the important things. If we do that, it shouldn't matter."
The Flames and Avalanche have split their first two games this season. Calgary holds the slight edge in goals during those two contests, outscoring Colorado 9-8.
Top line chemistry
When he was acquired as a free agent in the summer, Tanguay was expected to become the playmaker Olli Jokinen and Jarome Iginla were lacking last season. He was placed on the top line to start the season but after a few games, it appeared the trio lacked the chemistry needed and Matt Stajan was shuffled up to replace Jokinen.
Since then, the Flames have struggled offensively. Sensing the need to shake up his lines, Brent Sutter reunited Jokinen with Iginla and Tanguay and so far, the line has been able to produce.
"I don't think it's a comfort level - it's more of desperation," Tanguay said of the trio's great play as of late. "With the situation we're in as a team, everybody has to produce and contribute a little bit more."
Over their last five contests, the line has combined for 12 points. However, Tanguay believes they can improve.
"We still feel we can provide a little bit more offence. We're getting chances but we're not scoring at the rate that we think we can. You know you're not going to score every game but the games that you do score, you need sometimes to put three or four and help your team that way."
Since they only had played together for a short period at the beginning of the campaign, it has taken them a few games to adjust to playing together.
"Those two guys are playing really good, we're starting to see each other a little better on the ice and we're starting to understand 'us' a little bit more. Olli had played with Jarome, I've played with Jarome but we've never really been the three of us together so there's always a bit of an adjustment but we've got to make it happen now. Hopefully the line gets better as we go along."