by Mike Board
The most common and most pressing question heard in the Calgary Flames dressing room these days is: Why isn't this team winning?
The answers are plenty.
Not enough attention to details in the defensive zone, giving up too many shots, poor starts to games, poor finishes to periods, a lackluster power play and an overworked penalty kill among those answers.
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Back from a road trip in which they won just once in four tries, the Flames have spent plenty of time in the video room and on the ice looking to correct the problems that have plagued them so far.
And, as a group, they are determined to turn things around during a three-game homestand that begins Tuesday when the Phoenix Coyotes pay a visit to the Pengrowth Saddledome.
"We pretty much have to improve all aspects of our game," said captain Jarome Iginla. "We're working hard to get things back on track."
The Flames are 2-4-1 and sit at the bottom of the Northwest Division heading into their homestand. The power play has struggled and ranked 29th in the league following action over the weekend. The penalty kill is ranked 27th.
"We are probably taking too many penalties and that makes it hard on the penalty killing unit," said Iginla. "We have to be more disciplined. We will get ourselves out of this. The games on the road were all close games."
Identifying the problems is one thing, correcting them is the next step. And the Flames aim to start doing that by playing better defensive hockey.
"This team's bread and butter is the defensive play and we haven't been getting that done," said forward Alex Tanguay.
Added defenceman Andrew Ference: "There's no panic. We're professionals. Outside the room people probably get more excited than us when we are winning and more anxious when we are losing. We know what we are doing wrong. It's easy to pinpoint."
In Ference's mind, the team is giving up too many shots -- on average, about 30 per game.
"We're giving up too many shots. If you give up between 20 and 25 shots and two or less goals, you will win more games than you lose," said Ference.
The Flames only win on the road came in a 1-0 shutout of the Ottawa Senators. They lost 5-4 to Toronto in overtime and 5-4 to Montreal before losing 3-2 in Boston.
"We can't try and turn into a goal-scoring machine," said Ference. "We know in the room the points now are as important as the points in January so we don't get too high and too low. We have experience in dealing with the hardships. We've just had a few of those hardships in the early going."
With Stephane Yelle out of the line-up with an ankle injury, the Flames have juggled their lines slightly. Tanguay and Iginla are now being centered by Daymond Langkow on the top line while Matthew Lombardi is between Chuck Kobasew and Jeff Friesen on the second line. The third line consists of Kristian Huselius, Jamie Lundmark and Tony Amonte while the fourth line has Marcus Nilson, Byron Ritchie and Darren McCarty.
Following Phoenix, the Flames host Nashville on Saturday and Washington on Monday.