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After a run to the box over the past few games, the Flames are focused keeping penalties to a minimum

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

VANCOUVER - Previous little good ever comes of bad behaviour.

"If you look at the last three games, honestly,'' critiqued Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan, casting an unflinching eye towards a major malady for his Flames early in this young season, "we've taken too many penalties.

"When you take 17 minors the last three games, the league doesn't let you off the hook.

"It just doesn't.

"I don't care how good your penalty kill is. Eventually they're going to break through."

Translation: Clean up your act(s).

Hours before the Flames hit the ice at Rogers Arena for the business end of a back-to-back weekend doubleheader, the topic of penalties remained front and centre.

The mounting penalty-kill toll may have manifested itself most obviously in Friday's loss to the Ottawa Senators owing to the 6-0 scoreline, but the problem has, in fact, been ongoing. Camouflaged, acknowledged Michael Frolik, by results and the stellar play of goaltender Mike Smith.

"Too many,'' sighed 3M Line right winger, with a soft shake of the head. "Just too many. 

"We were just talking about it. You cannot fool this league for too long.

"Even the games before (Friday), we took too many and got away with it because Smitty made some big saves to bail us out.

"Five, five, then last night seven. It's too much. You can kill three, maybe four, but more than that …

"Ever. Bad penalties, too. Stick-slashing. That kind of thing. 

"We can't afford to keep taking those kinds of penalties."

The Senators certainly used the powerplay time, and disruption of the Flames' tempo the penalty deluge inflicted, to decisive advantage Friday. 

"Exclude the last five minutes of the game, 12 of the 22 minutes from the end of the second, we were shorthanded,'' Gulutzan griped.

"When you're behind and your most offensive players are sitting on the bench for 12 minutes, give or take, it's hard to get any rhythm.

"We did it to ourselves."

Which leads to this evening's chance at redemption. In facing the 1-1-1 Canucks, Gulutzan issued a strong of note of caution. 

"I think people generally have the Canucks written off, if you read the media and everything but I look at their team a little differently, obviously having been here,'' said the former Vancouver assistant coach. "They have quality guys up the middle who can win face-offs and play both ends of the rink.

"When you're strong up the middle in this league … and they've got a good, solid corps of D. And Markstrom has been great in goal every time we've faced them.

"When you're good up the middle, have good D and goaltending, you're legitimate. I thought they really outplayed and outworked us in the first two exhibition games.

"That's something we addressed this morning."

First and foremost on the to-correct list, though, would be a curtailment of infractions.

"We've just gotta stay out of the box,'' reiterated defenceman Travis Hamonic. "Stay disciplined.

"In my years in this league, those types of things come back and bite you.

"In life, too.

"You might get away with bad habits, bad decisions, for a while but they have a way of catching up to you."

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