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Pushing the power play

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames
CALGARY, AB -- The Calgary Flames struggled to produce on the power play during the 2009-10 campaign and are looking to manufacture more goals with the man advantage this season.

"You have to have your power play," said head coach Brent Sutter. "There's no question, you have to score on your power play."

"I look at it where last year we were 29th in the league in goals for and really, it was 19 goals that would have put us around that 14th, 15th spot in the league. And those 19 goals ... your power play has to score. That's the bottom line."

The Flames were afforded 268 chances with the man advantage last season. They capitalized just 43 times, making their overall record on the power play a paltry 16 per cent. In comparison, the President's Trophy winners, the Washington Capitals, sat atop the list with a 25.5 per cent connection rate.

"We want to be right near the top of the standings, if not at the top," Jarome Iginla stated, "and those teams have great power plays and great PK's. Our PK has been really good for a number of years and we need our power play to step up for sure."

The Flames seemed to be on the right track in straightening out their power play woes. Through seven preseason games, the team notched six tallies with the man advantage.

"I think we're going to be better," Iginla said. "I thought as training camp went on, we've tried different things on different nights and I thought we've seen some improvement.

"But we're going to need to keep improving. It's not like we're just expecting it just to fall into place. We're going to need to keep working hard at it."

Indded. After clicking in the pre-season, the power play was 0-4 against the Edmonton Oilers on opening night. The Flames host Los Angeles on Sunday. ( 6 pm, Scotiabank Saddledome, Sportsnet West and The Fan 960).

Iginla said that while there are several key players from last season that will spend the bulk of time on the power play, the team is much more comfortable with each other and are acclimatized to everyone's different style of play.

"Sometimes on the power play you have maybe too many passers, sometimes you have too many shooters. Maybe you don't have a net-front guy or a quarterback. I think this year we're more comfortable with each other, we can read off each other."

"We worked at it last year but I think having Tangs (Alex Tanguay)  is going to help a lot. He can control the puck a lot, he's a natural QB on the power play ... I was the half-wall guy and that's not my natural position and I wasn't as good as I think Tangs can be at it."

In addition to that familiarity, Iginla believes the defence will play a much more active role in power play production.

"We have Gio (Mark Giordano). He keeps getting more and more confident. Then there's Whitey (Ian White) who we have for a whole year. Bo (Jay Bouwmeester) being back there for another year ... I think we have a lot of guys. You need the passing, you need the shooting."

According to Sutter, a major factor that the team needs to adjust and improve upon is faceoff wins.

"It's something we've got to get better at.You look at David Moss - Mosser, through exhibition, was our top faceoff guy. Right now, we miss him out of our lineup because of that. Our center icemen have got to do a better job if we want to have the puck more and be a puck possession team.

"We need to win faceoffs. That's the bottom line. Your centermen have to do a better job and also, our wingers have got to do a better job of helping them with draws by battling and getting in those areas of battle. It is an area of compete."

He also noted that while the top line will get the lions share of power play minutes, the coaching staff will be doling out power play time on game-by-game merit.

"Penalty kiling and power play has to be earned, the ice time," he said. "You've got to earn it through five-on-five hockey and how you play there. If you're struggling in those areas in games, maybe you don't deserve to be on the power play or penalty kill.

"That's why you want to use different guys. It's still about competing for ice time and wanting to play at a level you need to play at and the coaching staff is going to expect you to play at. That's why we've tried different guys and I think, for the most part, they've done a pretty good job."
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