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Flames hope they have hit rock bottom

by Todd Kimberley
CALGARY -- In case his Calgary Flames didn't get the message on Wednesday, coach Brent Sutter repeated the mantra once again Thursday morning.

Enough's enough.

Already in the midst of their longest losing streak of the season, the Flames were ventilated 9-1 Monday night by the Sharks at San Jose's HP Pavilion.

The result set off two days' worth of pointed questions from the Calgary sports media and members of Flames Nation. That the result occurred in mid-January, during the 50th game of the season, was concern enough. But the question also was asked -- in the wake of a colossal 6-5 collapse in Chicago on Oct. 12, an embarrassing 7-1 home defeat to those same Blackhawks on Nov. 19, and a disquieting 5-1 no-show against Vancouver on Dec. 27, how many times can a team hit rock bottom?

"I said it yesterday, and I'll say it again today – at some point, enough's enough," Sutter said Thursday, in advance of the Flames' home game against the 'Hawks. "The inconsistency's got to go. We've got to become a consistent hockey team. We have to accept what's in place, take it, and run with it. That's where we're at."

The Flames limped into Thursday's encounter with five-straight losses, and just one win in their past eight games. Sutter's troops had fallen from third overall in the Western Conference to seventh, with the ninth-place Detroit Red Wings owning two less points and a game in hand.

The Flames had their fair share of troubles entering San Jose, with just 13 goals in seven games and a power play that's sputtered spectacularly.

Whether it's individual failures or a collective reluctance to buy into Sutter's defense-first, no-cheaters philosophy, plenty of fingers have been pointed at the Flames' core, including captain Jarome Iginla and defensemen Robyn Regehr and Dion Phaneuf, in the wake of Monday's ugly defeat.

"That was one of the worst games I've ever played," Regehr said in San Jose. "It can be said for a lot of us out there."

"At times like this, we have to stick together. That's the main thing," Phaneuf told reporters one day after the Shark attack. "You guys are going to come here and criticize us and nitpick our game, which we deserve. We were not good enough. We have not been good enough. (Monday) night was an embarrassment."

As for Iginla, the future 2010 Vancouver Olympian has been held without a point in 22 of the Flames' 50 games this season. He's got no goals in nine games, and just one point in eight.

"My desire is there," Iginla told reporters. "I want to get better. I want to be good for this team. And I want to win. Questions about leadership, I understand that. No doubt it's a tough stretch. We deserve all the questions."

Things weren't about to get any easier with Chicago on the docket Thursday night. Calgary had lost six straight regular-season games to the 'Hawks, and five straight at home, in addition to last spring's six-game first-round playoff ouster.

"There's lots of reasons to be ready for the game, that's for sure. We blew one against Chicago this year, and they blew us out during the other one, so we've got to be ready," Calgary defenseman Cory Sarich said Thursday morning.

"After you experience what happened to us (in San Jose), you just want to get out there and redeem yourself. We can't wait to get back out on the ice."

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