CALGARY – Brent Sutter has had enough.
The Calgary Flames coach put his players through an intense practice on Wednesday to prepare for Thursday night’s home game against the Chicago Blackhawks (9:30 p.m. ET).
“You get to a point where enough’s enough,” said Sutter, whose squad has lost five straight games. “To be quite frank, that’s kind of where I’m at right now.”
A day after dropping a 9-1 decision in San Jose to the Sharks on Monday night, the Flames (26-28-6) returned home on Tuesday for a day filled with player-coach meetings, video review and off-ice training.
“I felt yesterday was a very productive day for us,” Sutter said. “Maybe it wasn’t on the ice, but mentally it certainly was.”
The players then hit the ice for Wednesday morning’s practice with renewed enthusiasm and eagerness to break out of their recent funk.
“I think we addressed it yesterday in our meeting,” said forward Nigel Dawes. “We’ve got to move forward. Obviously it was an embarrassing game but we don’t have time to sit back and think about it. We’ve got the next best team (in the Western Conference) coming in here to play us tomorrow and we’ve got to be ready for them.”
Having lost 4-1 in Ottawa to the Senators on Tuesday night, the Blackhawks (34-12-4) also have extra motivation to return to their winning ways.
“We have our own issues,” said Chicago captain Jonathan Toews. “We haven’t played great hockey the last couple games, but we’re going to stay positive and bounce back with a lot of energy tomorrow because we know that nothing’s going to be easy, that’s for sure. We’re going to have to work our butts off and go out there and earn it.”
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said he’s disappointed with his squad’s play of late, especially against the Senators.
“That might have been the worst game we played all year, so we want a response,” said Quenneville, who expects the Flames to match their intensity. “Both teams will be excited about playing and redeeming their last effort or last result.”
Chicago has skated to six straight regular-season wins over Calgary, including both times they’ve met in the 2009-10 campaign.
“We’ve had trouble playing them lately since I’ve been here,” said Calgary forward Rene Bourque, who’s in his second year with the Flames after playing his first three seasons with the Hawks. “They have a pretty good record against us. It’s going to be a good challenge for us. After the last game, I think the guys will be ready to respond.”
While they’re still stinging from the loss to San Jose, the Flames can also draw upon a 7-1 setback they suffered to the Hawks in Calgary on Nov. 19 for extra incentive.
“Any time you get beat that bad in your own barn, it’s embarrassing,” Bourque said. “We want to make this place a tough place to play and lately we haven’t been. That’s something we’ve got to change if we want to make to make a push through the second half of the season.”
Since a 4-1 loss to the Flames in Calgary on Nov. 22, 2006, the Blackhawks have reeled off six straight victories at the Pengrowth Saddledome, although Toews doesn’t put much stock in that statistic.
“Every time we’ve come back, we’ve always said it means nothing,” Toews said. “This team’s going to come out hard and they’re going to come at us. Same story tomorrow, so all that kind of goes out the window.”
Heading into the game against Chicago, Calgary defenceman Mark Giordano said the Flames have done their best to put the past behind them.
“It doesn’t really matter what’s happened up until this point and that’s the truth,” said Giordano, adding the players have taken Sutter’s advice to heart. “We just have to go forward and be a consistent team from here on in. This is a huge stretch for us going right down into playoffs. For us to get in, we have to play our system and play solid.”