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'PLAY FASTER'

Coach Bill Peters says team will have more goals - and more success - if they quicken their pace

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

The usual buzzwords apply when you're looking to get back in the win column. 

'Pucks in deep.'

'Keep it simple.' 

'Play a full 60.'

Fact is, those come up for a reason: They tend to play themselves out. 

Tonight you can add another one, perhaps the best example of what the Flames need to do to get a win in the finale of a mini, two-game homestand. 

"Play faster," a business-like Bill Peters reasoned following the morning skate. "We've got to play faster. 

"When we've played fast, in spurts, we've been good, and when we get away from it, then we're average."

The Flames, who finished third in the NHL last year with 3.52 goals per game, are down about a goal per through 11 games this fall.

To Peters, the source of the dry spell is clear. 

"Playing slow. Just playing slow," he said. "We're slow in transition, slow through the neutral zone, not really overly as committed as we'd like on the forecheck to get there. You can get there first and then go through somebody - go through their hands, if not the body."

That, he says, will lead to more offence. 

The Flames have had that, at times, but after dropping a 5-3 decision to the speedy Washington Capitals on Tuesday, another test tough awaits with the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov paying a visit to the Scotiabank Saddledome tonight.

The visitors' vaunted top line, with includes Huberdeau, Barkov and third-year triggerman Evgenii Dadonov, represents both the pace and the heft the Flames will have to contend with.

"Team speed, puck speed," Matthew Tkachuk said of the conduit to more offence. "We have to move the puck and we have to have guys moving with it. 

"We have a lot of moments right now in games where there's maybe one guy (moving), and then there's two or three other guys, and we're having trouble gaining speed with the puck through the neutral zone and having some offensive-zone time. We have to get back to the way we know we can play to be successful and I think that starts with having the puck more and having it in transition, too."

Tkachuk will be leaned on heavily as the Flames look to shut down Florida's talented top troupe, starting the game in a familiar spot with Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik to his immediate right. 

 

Video: "We'll have all hands on deck"

 

While Peters did say that the forward line combinations aren't permanent and could change based on how things go early, the reunited '3M' Line is looking to make a statement by containing their sun-kissed adversities and generate their own offence with a direct approach in transition. 

"Sometimes we drag the puck back and go D-to-D when we don't have to," Frolik said. "You're always trying to make the best play, but we watched some video clips the other day, and we agreed quickly moving it up and putting their D back on their toes would be a better option.

"It's not always going to be perfect, but we're a fast team - we need to keep the pace up and get in on the forecheck, make their D turn and win some battles. 

"That's how we're going to be successful."

Sometimes a great test brings out the best in you.

 We have to get back on track," said Tkachuk. "We can't be be using 'it's early in the season' or 'we're only a few games in.' Well, we're in game 12 now, so we've got to start to find our game here. We've started to trend towards that over the past week, but we know we have another gear that we have to get to.

"This is a great test, a great opportunity to do it. 

"It's a highly skilled, high offensive team that has a great goaltender and a defence that can really move the puck well. 

"They've got a great team over there and it might be a little overlooked because of where the play and we don't see them that much, but they're a great team and we always have some good games against them.

"Hopefully tonight's another one.

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