| January 14, 2010 |
|Staying positive |
Despite back-to-back setbacks at home, the Calgary Flames have a positive attitude going into Friday night’s game (7 p.m., Sportsnet West, The Fan 960) against the Nashville Predators at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
“We just have to keep pushing,” said head coach Brent Sutter. “You look at positives. There’s been a lot of them, but the bottom line is you’ve got to win.”
On Wednesday night the Flames outshot the Pittsburgh Penguins by a 38-27 margin, but lost 3-1 primarily due to a first-star performance by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
Just two nights earlier, Colorado goalie Craig Anderson made 44 saves and was named the game’s first star after leading the visiting Avalanche to a 3-2 shootout win over the Flames.
“We’ve ran into some good goaltending lately and they’ve made those big saves,” pointed out forward Nigel Dawes. “You’ve just got to stick with it.”
While Sutter has been pleased with the effort from his team, he said his top players have to find a way to create more offence.
“We’re creating opportunities and getting those opportunities, but we’re not finishing,” Sutter said. “That’s something we’ve got to do a better job obviously. We haven’t beared down enough in those situations and yet I don’t want it to be at the expense of all of a sudden you become a sloppy team in your own zone, a sloppy team in the neutral zone, because the next thing you know, you’re spending way too much time in your own zone. We’ve been there and it doesn’t work.”
Forward David Moss said the Flames have had discussions about sticking to their system and not getting frustrated.
“If we play that way and get pucks to the net and try to make it harder on goalies, we’ll have success,” Moss said. “Goals are hard to come by right now. It’s one of those times where you’ve got to stick with it. You can’t get to down on yourself.”
Looking for payback
The Flames (26-15-6) will be looking to avenge a 5-3 loss to the Predators (28-16-3) in Calgary on Dec. 19.
This will be the fourth and final meeting between the two teams this season. Calgary skated to a pair of victories in Nashville, 5-0 on Nov. 30 and 3-1 earlier this month on Jan. 5.
After a slow start to the season, the Preds now have one more point that the Flames and have risen to fourth spot in the tightly-contested Western Conference standings.
“They had a tough start this year,” noted Calgary captain Jarome Iginla. “They’ve had a good run. They’ve put it together and have been very consistent. They’re a fast team. They move the puck very well and they skate well. They’re always coming at you. You’ve got to work for your chances because they can get out of their zone pretty quick.”
Held without a point in his past five games, Iginla has confidence that he and linemates Olli Jokinen and Jamie Lundmark can break out with a strong performance against the Predators.
“We need to be better as a line, we need to create a little bit more and more consistently,” Iginla said. “If we keep pushing, staying positive, we’re going to find ways to score goals. We have before. We’re doing good things and we will again.”
For the record, Iginla has three goals in three games against the Predators this season.
Up and down week
On Tuesday morning, Jamie Lundmark was sent down to the Abbotsford Heat only to be called back up later that same day.
When asked to describe his week, Lundmark replied: “Playing some games and then jumping on a few flights, and a couple different hotels. All-in-all it’s been a pretty good week.”
After all, Lundmark scored once in regulation and then counted the game-deciding goal in a shootout in Vancouver against the Canucks on Saturday night. He also played well against the Penguins and fired four shots on net, but couldn’t bulge the twine behind Marc-Andre Fleury.
“We’re getting a lot of great chances to put the puck in the net,” said Lundmark, who has a pair of goals and two assists in 10 games with the Flames this season. “We’re making strides in the last three games here to play a good system game. The effort’s there and everyone’s playing well. We just need to score goals.”
The way the Flames have been playing lately, Lundmark said it’s only a matter of time before the floodgates open and they start finding the back of the net.
“I hope so,” he said. “That’s what usually happens. You go though ups and downs during the year. Sometimes the goals just aren’t going in for you and sometimes you’re getting goals when you’re not supposed to be getting them. We’re in that (goal-scoring drought) stage right now. The quicker we get out of it the better.”
Brian McGrattan and Brandon Prust have shown their willingness to drop the gloves this season as the Flames lead the league in fighting majors with 49.
When he’s needed a energy boost, Sutter has been able to count on either McGrattan or Prust to set the tone.
“They’re a big part of this team as is every player in that room,” Sutter said. “What they bring to the table is very important. The energy and the aggressiveness part of the game is very, very important. For those two guys to be effective players, they have to bring it.”
Iginla has also been impressed with what McGrattan and Prust have been bringing to the table for the Flames this season.
“They’ve been great for us this year,” Iginla said. “When we’re successful, we play an aggressive, in-your-face type of game and they create more room for us. They take care of some of the other guys that are trying to quiet some of our guys. You have to answer to them. It’s not just about fights. Our team is about energy and being physical.”