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Flames Update: Scouting the Wings

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

Each week of the season we start a new Flames Update page.

It includes Calgary Flames news, notes, quotes and anecdotes updated throughout the week with information from practices, games and morning skates.

Below is the Flames Update for the week beginning Nov. 17, 2008

Saturday Nov. 22, 2008
Champs until they are knocked off

Calgary head coach Mike Keenan makes no bones about it -- the Detroit Red Wings are the best team in the NHL right now.

Yes, the San Jose Sharks may have more points, but they also have played more games than the Red Wings, who visit the Pengrowth Saddledome tonight to face the Calgary Flames.

The Wings, the reigning Stanley Cup champions and winners of four straight heading into tonight's Hockey Night in Canada game,  have lost just twice in regulation this season.

"This is the best team in the league. They are the champs until someone displaces them," said Keenan,

The Flames, winners of two straight over the Colorado Avalanche, are not expected to make any line-up changes for tonight's game. Forward Matthew Lombardi and defenceman Jim Vandermeer remain sidelined with injuries. Miikka Kiprusoff will get the start in the Flames net.

Last season the Flames were 1-3-0 against the Wings.

The one win was the last meeting between the two teams when Kiprusoff recorded a 1-0 shutout on February 22.

Asked what message he would give his team prior to the game, Keenan quickly replied: "You would likely remind them that they beat this team the last time they were in here."

Friday Nov. 21, 2008
Aucoin picks up minutes

Defenceman Adrian Aucoin has long been known as a workhorse player who can log plenty of minutes.
And lately he has been doing just that. In two games against Colorado this week the veteran has logged 25 minutes and 28 minutes of ice time, up significantly over his average for the season of 18 minutes a game. Head coach Mike Keenan has deployed Aucoin with top shut-dwn d-man Robyn Regehr as well as give him some more power play time.

Aucoin hasn't wasted the opportunity as he has a goal and an assist and is plus three in his new role.

"He is an intelligent player who sees the game well," explained Keenan. "He has good skating ability. He can log the ice time and he has the offensive ability to help our team."

A big test looms

The Calgary Flames have battened down the defensive hatches for the past two games, outscoring the Colorado Avalanche 5-1 over two games while generating more than 80 shots on net.

Cory Sarich

"We're working together as five out there. We looked at our positioning and where we need to be and we are making sure we have two guys over their options. The big thing that is really making it happen is execution. It doesn't matter what you know, if you are not there, in the right spot, it is a waste. The execution has been there and the effort has been there the last two games," said defenceman Cory Sarich of the new system.

"We've simplified things. We had some indecision before and we have eliminated that which has limited the odd-man rushes and given us more turnovers. I don't think out offensive chances have suffered because of it."

Saturday provides a stern test for the re-focussed Flames as the Detroit Red Wings pay a visit. (8 p.m. Pengrowth Saddledome, CBC and The Fan 960).

"They play such a stingy game defensively. You have to be good all over the ice against them. Any sort of breakdown and they seem to exploit it. That's what they are good at," said Sarich.

Thursday Nov. 20, 2008: Gameday vs. Colorado

Rematch time

Flames @ Avs
7:00 p.m. Sportsnet, The Fan 960

Line-ups and Game Notes
Flames-Avs Preview

The Calgary Flames are bracing for a better Colorado Avalanche team tonight.

"We didn't see them at their best. Teams makes adjustments, especially in back-to-back games," noted Flames defenceman Cory Sarich.

The Flames dominated the Avs on Tuesday at the Pengrowth Saddledome, firing 51 shots on net in a 4-1 win. The Avs were on the tail end of a road trip while the Flames were coming off a four-day break.

The Flames are not expected to make any line-up changes for tonight's game.

Entering the game Curtis Glencross has a three-game, three-assist point streak while defenceman Adrian Aucoin, who had the game-winner against the Avs, also has a three-game points streak (1 g, 2 a).

The Avs will once again be without captain Joe Sakic who is nursing a back injury. They are expected to start Peter Budaj in net. Budaj was steady Tuesday in facing a barrage of Flames shots and, had he not made some big saves, the game would have been a runaway.

Tuesday Nov. 18, 2008: Gameday vs. Colorado

Reviewing done, time to hit the ice

The Calgary Flames have spent four days reviewing and refining their system. So, tonight against the Colorado Avalanche (7:30 p.m., Pengrowth Saddledome, Sportsnet West and The Fan 960), you might see a few different looks from the team.

"We have had four or five days to look at things and make some changes," noted captain Jarome Iginla following the morning skate. "Technically we want to improve. We want to bring up the energy. It's been a good break for us. You love to play games but it felt good for us to have these four days."

Iginla pointed to the standings and noted that every team in the Northwest Division has had bumps along the way. While the Flames have won twice in the their last seven games they are three points out of first in the division, which garners one of the top three seed spots in the Western Conference.

"I think the mood is still optimistic in the room," said Iginla. "And it should be."

There may be some line juggling tonight. Based on practice Monday -- only half the team took in the optional skate on Tuesday -- Iginla is likely to playing with Todd Bertuzzi and Daymond Langkow on the top unit. The second unit featured Dustin Boyd between Rene Bourque and Mike Cammalleri.

The Flames will travel to Denver Wednesday for the final game of the back-to-back with the Avs on Thursday at the Pepsi Centre. They then return home for a Saturday date with the Detroit Red Wings.

Monday Nov. 17, 2008
Warrener has surgery

Rhett Warrener, the Calgary Flames rugged defenceman who has been on the long-term injury list since the start of the NHL season, underwent surgery Friday on his battered right shoulder.

Warrener has had the nagging shoulder injury for the past couple of seasons and re-injured it during training camp. He remains on the long-term injury list.

A rough and tumble player, Warrener noted that, because of the shoulder injury, he found himself not playing his style and not being aggressive enough. After an off-season of high-end training, he came to camp in great shape. He immediately got back to playing his game and banging and crashing, only to hurt the shoulder again.

Seeking out a better result

The Flames are getting back to the basics and planning on playing a hard, three-man forecheck this week with a home-and-home series against the Colorado Avalanche and a home date with the Detroit Red Wings.

The simplification of the forecheck means the Flames should be going like gangbusters. There's risk and reward in such a system, which is similar to what Darryl Sutter implemented for the team during the 2003-04 season. Whatever the system might be, the Flames are ready to get back on track and put a 6-1 loss to San Jose behind them as quickly as possible.

With four days off between games for the first time this season, the squad is refreshed. The bumps and bruises have healed slightly.

"We have to look back at our last couple of games and we haven't played well at all," said assistant captain Robyn Regehr. " As players we've been embarrassed in some of those situations and I hope we are now at that point where we all realize that we have to buy in and do the same things out there to be successful. Otherwise things break down and we get into trouble."

One player the Flames won't be facing Tuesday when they host Colorado (7:30 p.m. Sportsnet West and The Fan 960) is Avs captain Joe Sakic who is day-to-day with a back injury.

"Joe is their leader over there. He is a guy that you know what you are going to face every night because he competes. He is a great leader. He leads by example. For me as an opponent I am happy that he is not going to be in the line-up. That being said, however, they have some very dangerous offensive weapons."

Among them Paul Stastny who leads the Avs in points with 15, Milan Hejduk who has 14 points and Ryan Smyth who has 10 points.




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