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Derek Ryan says the Flames need to be more consistent in the second half of the season

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

As the calendar readies to flip to a new year and the second half of the season beckons, Derek Ryan has a resolution he's urging his pals to share.

"What's in most need of an upgrade is our consistency as a group,'' reckons the centre. "That's what we need to address.

"That has to be our priority.

"I mean, we've played games, strong games, but what we need to do is string more consistent efforts together where we're playing the full 60, and the right way. Not this win, lose, win a couple, lose a couple, up-and-down, back-and-forth, blah, blah, blah.

"That's just not going to cut it.

"That's not going to get us where we want to be, to where we think we should be."

Heading into their New Year's Eve tilt at the Scotiabank Saddledome (click here for tickets) against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Flames are coming off a 3-0 loss to the visiting Vancouver Canucks on Sunday.

That, paradoxically, came on the heels only 48 hours earlier of arguably their most comprehensive performance of an uneven season so far, a 5-1 slap-down of the Oilers up north in Edmonton.

Puzzling? Assuredly.

Fixable? Definitely.

"Looking at the tape (of the Vancouver game), I don't think we played as bad as I, or everyone, thought,'' explained Ryan. "They got a couple of quick goals off the start after we'd talked before the game about how they are a really good first-period team. Which can't happen. But looking more in-depth there are obviously some things we did wrong but there were also some really good things.

"We have to concentrate on being more consistent across the board. Our forecheck, in our defensive zone, in the neutral zone. You name it.

"Putting all the elements together at the same time, instead of, say, having a good O-zone night but poor transition. Or whatever it might be.

"It's important - right now - to start bucking the trend of going back and forth between good games and not-so-good games, whoever it happens to be that we're playing. Vancouver. Edmonton. Chicago.

"Doesn't matter."

Standing in the immediate way of that vital re-set, the Jonathan Toews/Patrick Kane-fuelled Blackhawks, intent on muscling themselves back into a decidedly muddled Western Conference playoff equation.

The table could scarcely be tighter, with only five points separating No. 3 Vegas with No. 10 Minnesota. The Pacific Division is every bit as snug, with just a four-point gap between the top five teams.

So points are most definitely at a premium.

Interim head coach Geoff Ward needs his group to come out strong.

"The rebound for us,'' he emphasized, "is the most important thing.

"We have to understand that coming off two divisional games we still need to be emotionally engaged in the game. I think coming off two games like that you can take your foot off the accelerator a little bit, playing against a team out of the division.

"We can't take that approach. For us, every game counts right now. Every game's important.

"Our response is going to say a lot. That's the only that's important right now: How we respond."

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