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Brent Sutter plays down coaching match vs. brother

by Aaron Vickers
CALGARY -- Saturday's game against the Los Angeles Kings is just another two points the Flames need to capture against an opponent ahead of them in the standings, according to Calgary coach Brent Sutter.

Not that everyone agrees.

The game marks the return of former Flames coach and GM Darryl Sutter to Calgary after being hired by the Kings last month -- and will be the first time he and brother Brent will go head-to-head as coaches in the NHL.

But you wouldn't know the game was anything special by talking to Brent.


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"Yes it's the first time, but we're so accustomed and used to (competing) it isn't a big deal," Brent said. "We've always played and competed against each other. It's always been something we've always done right from kids growing up and playing against each other in pro hockey. To us it's not really a big deal. Darryl is coming in to coach his hockey team and I'm here coaching our hockey team. It's the LA Kings against the Calgary Flames. We're both going to want to go out there and win.

"Maybe it's hard for people to understand, but it's just us."

Amplifying the scrutiny of the game is the fact Darryl is returning to Calgary for the first time in more than a year after he left the Flames organization following eight high-profile seasons – first as a celebrated coach and later as an often-questioned general manager.

Taking over as coach in 2003-04, Darryl led the team to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. After a second consecutive postseason appearance, he left the bench to concentrate on his role as general manager. While the Flames made the playoffs in each of the following three seasons, Calgary failed to advance past the first round before failing to qualify in 2009-10.

After a rocky start to the 2010-11 season, Darryl quietly left the organization in December. After a year-and a-half hiatus from the game, Darryl returned to the bench with the Kings.

"It seemed at the time he wanted a break or be done with it," Flames captain Jarome Iginla said. "I guess being away, maybe you miss it. It doesn't surprise me. He's always been a successful coach. I don't know I expected him to get back in it – I probably didn't – but I can see why. He's been good at it. He's had some fun at it and wants to get back into it."

Darryl's definitely back -- he has guided the Kings to a 6-1-3 record in his first 10 games. That's what has Brent stressing the importance of two points against a tough club rather than his brother's return.

Flames center Olli Jokinen said he and his teammates got the message loud and clear.

"We haven't thought about that we're going to play against Darryl," said Jokinen, who was never coached by Darryl but was twice acquired by him as general manager. "We're playing against the L.A. Kings. They're a team that's ahead of us in the standings. For us it's a game we want to win. They're a team we're battling with for a playoff spot. If you ask Brent it's probably the same answer. It's not brother against brother, it's Calgary against L.A."

Some players have tuned out Darryl's return altogether.

"We’ve always played and competed against each other. It’s always been something we’ve always done right from kids growing up and playing against each other in pro hockey. To us it’s not really a big deal." -- Flames' coach Brent Sutter
The dynamics surrounding the game – which also features the return of newly acquired former Flame Michael Cammalleri -- wouldn't have crossed the mind of defenseman Cory Sarich if not for the attention the media has placed on Darryl's return.

"Us as players, we don't really have to deal with that," Sarich said. "The media kind of hypes it up and we go about our business. Other than that, for the five minutes we're subjected to it, there's no difference for us. I don't find it all that exciting."

It's the exact focus Brent Sutter was hoping his team would have coming into the game three points behind both the Minnesota Wild and Darryl's Kings for a playoff spot.

"Don't get caught up in any of it," Brent said of the hype. "Our focus is on being ready to play. We've went through it already, had a meeting about just making sure we're focused on one thing and the task at hand and what we need to do and how we have to play not worry about any of the dynamics around it and get caught up in the dynamics around it."

Brent acknowledged the team is aware the storyline is there. It just isn't where the concern lies for his Flames team that has won eight consecutive games at Scotiabank Saddledome and is 9-0-1 in its last 10 on home ice.

"We know they're out there," Brent said, also acknowledging the two brothers talked last week, albeit not about the match-up. "Probably more is made of it than there needs to be and it is what it is but as far as our hockey team concern it isn't where our focus is. Our focus is on how we have to play on the ice."

And another two points for a Calgary club pushing to make the playoffs.
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