CALGARY – One week after losing 2-1 to the Blue Jackets in Columbus, the Calgary Flames have revenge on their minds.
On Tuesday, the Flames (5-2-1) will welcome the Jackets (5-1-0) to the Pengrowth Saddledome, where they’ve compiled a 3-1 record.
“Columbus beat us, so we want to have a huge game against them,” said Calgary forward Craig Conroy. “We just have to keep it simple and we’ve got to play in their zone more. They played in our zone too much last game.”
The Flames jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first period in Columbus last week before Rick Nash set up a pair of goals by Anton Stralman and Kristian Huselius in the second stanza to lead the Jackets to a come-from-behind victory.
“He’s a good player,” said Calgary defenceman Jay Bouwmeester, who was drafted third overall by the Florida Panthers in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, two picks after Nash. “He’s a big guy, he can skate and he’s got good hands. He’s one of those guys that you’ve got to watch out for. He’s pretty dangerous every time he’s out there.”
Averaging 27:19 of ice time per game – third in the NHL behind Philadelphia’s Chris Pronger and Carolina’s Joe Corvo – Bouwmeester will most likely see a lot of action when Nash and his linemates jump over the boards.
“There’s guys like that on every team,” Bouwmeester said. “It’s always a challenge playing against those guys, but you’ve got to take some pride in trying to shut them down.”
Another key for Calgary to avenge last week’s loss to the Jackets is for the Flames to make life difficult for goalie Steve Mason, who stopped 22 of 23 shots he faced in Columbus.
“He played good, but I don’t think he played that great,” said Flames left-winger Rene Bourque, who leads the Flames with four goals and five assists through eight games. “We didn’t get enough pucks on him. Our power play needs to keep going, we need to get a lot more shots at the net and crash the net a little bit more.”
With his 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame combined with his athletic ability, Mason has compiled a 4-1 record to go with a 2.35 goals against average and a .925 save percentage.
“If he’s going to see the puck, he’s going to save them all,” Calgary forward Eric Nystrom pointed out. “We’ve got to shoot pucks and dig in and work hard around the net. It’s tough to get there, but the reward’s worth it.”
Another reason why the Jackets have gotten out to their best start in franchise history is that they’ve bought into coach Ken Hitchcock’s defensive-minded system, while still finding ways to score goals at the other end.
“They’re really well coached,” Bourque said. “They play a system that they have down pat. They backcheck hard, they play good defence as a team. Every time you play them, it’s going to be usually a low-scoring, hard-checking game and I probably don’t expect anything different on Tuesday.”
“Obviously they’re playing some good hockey,” added Nystrom. “We know that they’re not going to give up much, so we’ve got to make sure that we’re playing really tight D. That’s what it comes down to.”
After losing to the Jackets, the Flames rebounded with a 5-3 triumph on home ice over the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night to end their three-game losing streak.
“Hopefully we just build on that and keep going,” said Conroy, adding that the Flames have the Northwest Division leading Colorado Avalanche (6-1-1) in their sights. “Everything’s so tight. Colorado’s playing well and we want to catch them.”
With four home games spread out over the next 12 days, Calgary coach Brent Sutter said his players have no excuses for not being prepared to put in a consistent effort for a full 60 minutes.
“It’s a good time for us to nail down things,” said Sutter of the ample amount of practice time the Flames have been given due to the schedule providing them with a lengthy homestand. “You need a very workmanlike approach when you come to the rink on non game days. Practice is not a day off. It’s a day of work, it’s a day of doing things that we need to do to make ourselves better so we can implement it in a game.”