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TRAFFIC JAM

Shooting the puck and creating a screen - it sounds easy, but that's the focus for the Flames tonight as they look to break out of a mini-scoring slump

by TY PILSON @TyPilson / CalgaryFlames.com

VANCOUVER - Geoff Ward paused near the end of his morning press conference in the bowels of Rogers Arena, and cracked a broad smile.

When asked if he'd like to see young defenceman Rasmus Andersson shoot the puck more, the affable bench boss - whose team is mired in a mini-scoring slump of sorts - had a laugh as he answered.

"You know what, I'd like to see everybody shoot more," he said. "To be honest with you."

Scoring has been an issue this season for the Flames, a team that finished third in that metric last year when they finished first in the Western Conference.

This year, it's been a tougher slog.

The last three games have magnified that, with Calgary managing three goals in an 8-3 loss to the Oilers, followed by a 3-1 defeat to the Sharks and a 3-2 edging by the Predators.

The Flames are generating plenty of chances, but not finding paydirt often enough.

That said, Ward would still like to see more pucks on the net.

Andersson scored in the loss to the Preds, wristing a shot from the point that found its way through a maze of traffic.

Nothing fancy.

But that's the point, said Ward.

"I mean, that's how you score at this time of year," he explained. "We talked about it a lot. You know, point shots with traffic, funnelling the pucks to the net with traffic, making sure you execute on basic rush plays.

"When you look at the playoff scoring, that's how it is. I mean, we've looked at it over a couple of years now where I sit down and categorize every goal that's scored in the playoffs and how it's scored, and those three ways are the three most common ways by far, it's almost 2-to-1 to any other category of scoring. You know, it sounds simple, but simple works. The law of averages is there. You throw more pucks to the net and make the goaltender make more saves, your chances of scoring more goals is greatly enhanced."

 

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Andersson, who played a season high 24:39 in an expanded role with captain Mark Giordano sidelined by injury, agreed he is putting more focus on using his shot, one of the best attributes of his game.

"Ya, for sure," he said. "I mean, you see my goal. It's just as easy as traffic. If we get that traffic to the net, it's easier to score. The goalie didn't see anything. It wasn't even really a hard shot. It was just kind of a floater in there.

"So, if we can get a few of those and get our swagger back a little bit, then we'll be fine. We have a really good team in here."

On top of scoring goals, there is added pressure on the backend to help keep them out of their net with Giordano out of the lineup.

Andersson knows this is an important opportunity for him to step up his game.

"That's what I want to do," said Andersson. "And that's what I felt I did last game. Now it's just to keep going, really, and we have to get the points. We have to play really well here tonight. We have to play one of our best games of the season. It's a tough test. Vancouver has been hot lately and they've been really good at home so it's a tough test."

 

 

Ward was pleased with the performance of his blueliners in the tilt with the Preds given the adversity.

"I thought his game was good," said Ward of Andersson. "But I thought the game of (all) our defencemen the other night was fine.

"For the minutes they had to play more, for the difference situations they had to step up in, and how they had to expand their roles a little bit, I thought they were good."

"All-in-all, I thought our backend did exactly what they had to do to give us a chance to win."

They'll need more of that tonight against the Pacific-leading Canucks in another one of those all-important four-point games.

"It's awesome," said Ward, with another smile. "It's that time of year and every game is big. The fact that it's in the division makes it even more important. So, ya, day at a time here now. Game at a time. So, we're excited about the opportunity to come and play tonight. We're looking forward to it."

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