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One Before The Road: New Scenery, New Energy for Flames?



Steve Macfarlane, CHN

Most Calgarians want to get out of town at this time of year. This year, maybe none more than members of the Calgary Flames.

Home-ice advantage hasn’t exactly worked in their favour as an NHL scheduling anomaly has had them in the province of Alberta for 10 straight games to start the 2022-23 season. They’re 5-4, but that includes a road win in Edmonton over their rival Oilers.

At the Saddledome, they’re 4-4 following a 4-1 loss to the Predators. The .500 tiebreaker comes Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils.

Not exactly how most saw this extended homestand going after they got off to a 5-1 start to the season.

Earlier this week, new star Jonathan Huberdeau was talking about how much pressure he’s putting on himself to be better. He wants to show the Calgary Flames fans who instantly adopted him into the family this summer what he can do on the ice.

Nazem Kadri has made an early impression with four goals and nine points in his first six games but has been noticeable more for his mistakes in the past few contests. He has one goal and no helpers in the last three games — all losses on home ice.

A turnover Kadri owned post-game against the Seattle Kraken helped the visitors complete a three-goal third-period comeback.

MacKenzie Weegar has flashed in moments but is still seeking consistency. One point in the past six after three in the first three isn’t what anyone was hoping for. But more concerning is the unpredictability in his checking.

He’s not alone, but there have been times this year when players seem out of place and unsure what their assignment is. Even head coach Darryl Sutter has said he’s concerned.

A change of scenery will let a Calgary Flames group featuring a few foundational additions find that team bonding and chemistry that you can’t duplicate at home where spouses, children, pets and personal responsibilities are front and centre when they’re not at the rink.

“Sometimes you need to shake it up,” winger Blake Coleman admitted after the latest loss.

“It’s no excuse. There’s never excuses in this league. Everybody’s got different difficulties in their schedules. But I certainly think it’s time, I think we’re ready to get out there.

“I think sometimes you just need a different way to find some energy and some excitement,” he added before snapping back to focus on the remaining game at home.

“We can’t overlook this last game. We need this win. It’s a big one for us,” Coleman said. “So I’m not looking forward to the road trip, I’m looking forward to the next game.”

Mikael Backlund wasn’t about to accept the change of scenery as a necessity.

Not after the Flames took advantage of a rescheduled stretch at the Saddledome that essentially allowed them to secure a spot in the playoffs last season.

“We’re not going to blame it on that. We had really good success in February last year when we were home for I don’t know how many games,” Backlund said.

It was seven. And they won them all.

“We took care of home ice,” he said. “So, there’s no excuses here. We’ve got to be better.”

That may come on the road. But if they don’t compete harder at home on Saturday, the flight won’t leave soon enough.

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