CALGARY – The Calgary Flames have no where to go but up in their home opener after a 6-0 thrashing by the Vancouver Canucks to start the season.
And they get another crack at the NHL team that made them look slow and porous Thursday at GM Place as the Canucks kick off a six-game road trip at the Pengrowth Saddledome on Saturday (10 p.m. ET).
It was a quiet Flames practice of sombre-faced players Friday at the Saddledome in contrast to a chipper Canucks session with smiles all around that followed.
The Canucks have created buzz around the league not only with their performance Thursday, but by naming goaltender Roberto Luongo their captain earlier this week and choreographing a touching tribute to deceased teammate Luc Bourdon prior to puck drop Thursday.
The Flames found solace in the fact they have 81 regular season games left this season and the opportunity to play Vancouver again immediately.
“We lost our first game and lost it bad,” Calgary captain Jarome Iginla said. “It’s one game and we know they were a lot better than us and we have a chance to get better next game.
“It’s nice we play them again, too. We don’t have to wait around to getting another crack at being a lot better. Not only do we want to get a win and get our first of the season, but also it would be nice to beat them.”
The inability to solve Luongo early, including the squandering of a two-man advantage in the first period, followed by soft defence around Miikka Kiprusoff and then lapses in discipline added up to a decisive loss for Calgary in their first game.
“For me, of course, I have to do a better job too,” Kiprusoff said. “Not too many shots and way too many goals.”
The Flames will have shut-down defenceman Robyn Regehr back in the lineup Saturday. He flew home from Vancouver for the birth of his first child, a son, early Friday morning.
Regehr’s absence was felt around Kiprusoff’s crease, but head coach Mike Keenan felt his forwards were more to blame than his defencemen for the Flames’ shortcomings in their own end.
“I thought the defencemen in a lot of situations were in the right position. It was the forwards not coming back to help them,” Keenan said. “Those mistakes defensively for the most part were the responsibility of the forwards, not defencemen.
“With this group you expect they have enough professional pride to respond and be prepared at least better than they were last evening.”
Early signs point to Calgary having their hands full with Vancouver in the Northwest Division this season when you include a 6-1 pre-season loss at GM Place.
“That’s two games back-to-back where we gave very little protection to our goaltender and makes it a little bit skewed that we gave up 12 goals on 46 shots,” Keenan observed.
“They didn’t surprise us (Thursday) because they gave us a good country tune-up in the last pre-season game, too. Maybe we’re back playing as youngsters when you can go down by three or four goals and come back and win a game, but in the National Hockey League, that’s not likely to happen.”
Luongo was key in holding off the Flames when they marshalled scoring chances as Calgary outshot Vancouver 19-12 over the first two periods. The Canucks goaltender expects a swarm of bodies in front of him Saturday at the Saddledome.
“It’s part of every team’s game plan to get bodies in front of me and make some contact, so you just have to fight through those things and see the puck as well as you can,” Luongo said.
Canucks forward Alex Burrows, who victimized Calgary with a pair of goals Thursday, acknowledged the pre-game tribute to Bourdon injected emotion into the Canucks’ bench, but doesn’t think they’ll suffer a drop-off in intensity Saturday.
“A lot of guys in this room probably dedicated that game to Luc, but I don’t think that’s what really made the difference,” he said. “It was the first game for (the Flames) for a new season, so they should have been hyped up too to play a big game.”
The Canucks announced Friday a US$13-million, four-year contract extension for Swedish defenceman Alex Edler.
The 22-year-old, who is six foot three and 220 pounds, had eight goals and 12 assists in 75 games for the Canucks last season.