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Gut-check time for lackluster Flames



We knew the adversity was going to come. The Calgary Flames blasted their way through a challenging early season schedule with what looked like ease.

They bonded on the road, boosted their confidence and set themselves up for success in the standings. They looked like one of the league’s top teams. Through October and November, the Flames were one of the team’s to beat.

Now, they look like a beaten team.

With a fourth straight loss on Thursday night, Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter spoke volumes about where the team is currently at.

“There has to be a lot more guys able to handle adversity,” he said via Zoom. “That’s a big challenge for this group. It can be frustrating. But at the same time, we can dig in and play better.”

Four straight regulation losses is a lot. And while you could justify the previous three to the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes as benchmark games against the league’s best, the Flames just flopped against an Ottawa Senators team that should have been their rebound.

Dropping a 4-1 decision to the Senators at the Saddledome was a massive disappointment. For the half-capacity group of fans who sat and watched without food or drink – and, boy, could they have used some drinks – for the coach, and for at least some of the players.

“This giving up four goals a game stuff, it doesn’t work for us,” said veteran Calgary Flames winger Milan Lucic after the game. “It doesn’t work for any team.”

‘Not enough emotion in our game right now’

Lucic was certainly showing his frustration. His emotion was evident in a fight on the ice, too. But the coach suggested there aren’t enough members of the team feeling that same pain after these losses.

“I don’t think there’s enough disappointment when they lose,” Sutter said. “There’s just not enough emotion in our game right now.

“There is energy and emotion lacking in our game.”

That’s not a good sign for a team that’s playing wingers Tyler Pitlick and Brett Ritchie in the top nine. A team that scored one goal against Sens goaltender Matt Murray. Murray’s first win of the season was Thursday at the Saddledome.

With a lot of youth and hunger, the Senators aren’t a team that should be taken lightly. No NHL team should. However, the Sens had played once since Christmas – a brutal 6-0 lashing to their rival Toronto Maple Leafs on New Year’s Day – and a day earlier were feeling the effects of the altitude if not the overall rust.

It’s gut-check time for the Calgary Flames.

“We’ll come out with emotion next game,” said Matthew Tkachuk, who scored the team’s only goal. “I don’t doubt that.”

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