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Ol' Willie Nelson would be proud as Flames embark on season-long 12-day, six game trek away from the Scotiabank Saddledome

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

As someone first-hand familiar with the annual two-week road trip to accommodate Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus unloading clowns, trapeze wires and cotton candy into the United Centre each November, Michael Frolik is well versed in late check-outs, judicious packing and long treks away from home.

"Yeah, those seemed to go on … forever,'' reminisced the 3M Line's ultra-efficient right-winger, of his three-season spell as a Chicago Blackhawk.

"Hotels. Airplanes. Airports. Rinks. We were away a long time.

"This one's, what, 12 days? Honestly, I think it'll be good for us. We've got a couple team-bonding events planned, a team dinner and a Dallas Cowboys' football game (a matinee vs. the Los Angeles Chargers at AT&T Stadium in Arlington a week from next Thursday) that breaks up the routine.

"Those kinds of things are important because it can get, well, boring, same-old, same-old, if you're away a long time.

"We've been home for a little while here, though, so it's good for the guys to get away and we've played pretty good on the road this year."

Calgary owns a commendable 4-2 record in hostile environments this season but hasn't paid a visit to a road rink since Oct. 25, a 5-2 loss at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

This marks the Flames' longest seasonal spell away from the Scotiabank Saddledome, at least in terms of duration at 12 days, with six games to be played (there's another murderous six-gamer in early February that lasts only 11 days).

"I'll tell you, our guys are ready to go on the road,'' said coach Glen Gulutzan. "The coaches, too.

"Home's busy. We've had lots of events, done some good things for charity, Halloween party. Sometimes it's good for a team that's starting to jell to get on the road and solidify that."

The odyssey worthy of Homer whisks them from Calgary to Detroit to Philadelphia to Washington to Columbus, winding up with back-to-backs in Dallas and Colorado and then, at last, home again via their regular charter aircraft in the wee small hours of the morning of Nov. 26.

"This'll probably be my longest, ever,'' reckoned Sam Bennett. "I don't think I've ever been on one six games before.

"This road trip is huge for us. We've got to come out on top at the end of this. We know how important it is."

A welcome scoring complement from the third and fourth lines of late - particularly the Bennett-Mark Jankowski-Jaromir Jagr trio - couldn't have arrived at a more opportune moment, with opposition coaches holding the last-change match-up card on home ice.

"Having all four lines contribute (in a 7-4 of the St. Louis Blues on Monday) is big for our confidence,'' agreed Bennett. "We knew we could generate offence from all four lines. It wasn't a matter of if, but when."

The Flames embark on the wings of a highly-successful 5-2 home-stand that included conquests of perennial powers Washington, Pittsburgh and the Blues.

"This is an important road trip for us,'' agreed Johnny Gaudreau, tied for third in league scoring at 24 points. "We learned some things at home. We tried to get better playing at home and picked up some big wins. I think we if we keep playing like we do the road we'll be all set."

When asked, given the two-week duration of the homestand, if he and his mates could even remember how they fashioned success on their earlier travels, Gaudreau smiled.

"Hope so. Feels like a half a month since we played on the road."

While the end results were certainly encouraging, the Flames did surrender 16 goals over the final four games of the homestand, which likely won't cut it in, say, the Capital One Arena, Nationwide, Scotttrade or the brand-spanking-new Little Caesars.

"We'll see how it goes. A few of the last games here, we did kind of overplay some things,'' confessed Frolik. "We keep it a little more simple on the road. You have to. Good starts. Good forecheck. Get on top of teams. You don't want to get into shootouts on the road.

"You hear the same things all the time. It's kind of simple to say but we've got to do the work.

"We've built up good some momentum here at home and now we want to keep it going, transfer it onto the road."


Nov. 15 - Detroit (5:30 p.m., Sportsnet, Sportsnet960 The FAN)

Nov. 18 - Philadelphia (11 a.m., Sportsnet One, Sportsnet960 The FAN)

Nov. 20 - Washington (5 p.m.., Sportsnet West, Sportsnet960 The FAN)

Nov. 22 - Columbus  (5 p.m., Sportsnet360, Sportsnet960 The FAN)

Nov. 24 - Dallas  (7 p.m., Sportsnet Flames, Sportsnet960 The FAN)

Nov. 25 - Colorado (8 p.m., HNIC, Sportsnet960 The FAN)

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