CALGARY – The Calgary Flames head out on the road where the success of their power play is almost polar opposite to results at home.
It seems a head scratcher that Calgary ranks second in the league away from the Scotiabank Saddledome when they have a man advantage, but are dead last among 30 teams on their own ice.
Skewing those statistics somewhat is the fact the Flames had far more power-play chances at the ‘Dome (2-for-34) compared to enemy territory (6-for-18).
Nevertheless, Calgary’s power play is a drag on their offensive output that ranks 27th with 30 goals.
“Power play is very important for the offence of a team,” captain Jarome Iginla acknowledged Thursday . “It gets everybody to relax a little bit and feel better when it goes in, especially when you get one in the first half of the game.”
“When that goes, the five-on-five goals usually seem to follow. You have a little more hop in your step and little more weight off the shoulders. Your job is to go out and produce on the power play in those tight games.”
Calgary (6-7-1) is in Chicago on Friday before heading to Denver to face the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday. The Blackhawks have the worst power play in the league with just five goals in 57 opportunities. The Avs are the best a man up at 14-for-48.
What’s also puzzling about Calgary’s power-play woes is the team has virtually the same personnel on its units as last season.
The Flames ranked in the bottom third of the NHL in special teams when general manager Darryl Sutter stepped down on Dec. 28, but Calgary’s power-play unit was ranked eighth by season’s end.
Not surprisingly, the Flames spent Thursday’s practice session at the Saddledome working on the power play.
“We’ve been terrible here at home, but we looked at the tape this morning,” winger Alex Tanguay said. “We saw the little things we weren’t doing and how we have to execute.”
“First of all, we’ve got to retrieve the puck and trust where your other guys are at. Let the puck to the work. The clips we saw, when we moved the puck we create opportunities. When we skate with it, we’re not very successful.
“We’ve made a few adjustments as to where the guys are going to be, so hopefully we’ll have success when we get on the road.”
Tanguay is more of a set-up man, but he’s been told to shoot the puck more on the power play.
“That’s fine with me,” he said. “I’m a guy that, I like to take care of the puck, as opposed to shoot it just to shoot it. I’ll pick my opportunities. I’ll try to shoot a little bit more.”
The Flames are expected to announce Friday that forward Niklas Hagman is on waivers to make room for the return of centre Mikael Backlund.
Backlund, Calgary’s first-round draft pick in 2007, has yet to play a regular-season game because of a broken left pinkie requiring surgery in the pre-season.
The 22-year-old practised Thursday on Calgary’s top forward line between wingers Iginla and Tanguay and is expected to be in the lineup in Chicago. The Flames also called up centre Paul Byron from the Abbotsford Heat on Thursday.
Fitness shouldn’t be an issue for Backlund as he’s been skating hard for weeks. He made need a couple of games to get his timing back.
“He’s been chomping at the bit to go,” Iginla said. “His speed, and he’s a creative guy, I think it will definitely be a nice boost for our lineup.”
Sutter plans to play Miikka Kiprusoff in net in Chicago and says he’ll make a decision on his goalie for Saturday’s game after that.
Calgary also called up defenceman T.J. Brodie from Abbotsford on Wednesday. Head coach Brent Sutter says he’s “leaning towards” playing the 21-year-old on their road trip.
Calgary hosts the Ottawa Senators next Tuesday.