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Time for Flames to make Dome a feared place to play

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Calgary Flames

It’s time for the Calgary Flames to take another step in the Unfinished Business rebrand.

Head coach Darryl Sutter has often stated the significant pieces the team needs to put together to bring back the identity he helped establish in his first go-round with the Flames.

Improving their conditioning. Being prepared to play for every game. Checking hard and winning puck battles. Going to the areas around the net that give you the best chance at scoring.

Through 26 games this season, they’ve had checkmarks in most of those boxes on most nights. But there’s one more thing left the Calgary Flames haven’t done.

They haven’t made the Saddledome a place opponents dread.

Maybe they just haven’t had enough time here.

With an 11-4-2 away record, the Flames have earned more points on the road than any other NHL club this year. Actually, they have more points on the road than nine teams had total before Wednesday night’s action began.

Andrew Mangiapane leads the league in road goals with 16. He has just one on home ice. Even with the lopsided skew with nine home games and 17 away, the percentage difference is striking.

The Flames have played more away games than any other franchise so far – even the New York Islanders, who were awaiting the unveiling of their new arena.

But the next few weeks include eight home games, interrupted only by a back-to-back in Chicago and Nashville early next week, and a skip to Seattle the night before their New Year’s Eve game against the Winnipeg Jets.

“It’s exciting. We’ve had a lot of time on the road and I think that’s good for the team. But it starts tomorrow against Carolina. It’s a big home game and they’re a good team, so we’ve got to be ready for that,” centre Sean Monahan said on Wednesday.

“It’s nice to be able to play in front of our fans here for the next little while.”

The Calgary Flames are 4-2-3 at the Saddledome this year. Not a bad record by any means. But aside from a raucous 6-0 win over Adam Fox and the New York Rangers, and maybe the shootout victory over the Penguins before they hit the road last week, the building hasn’t been buzzing.

“I think the big thing is the way we start. You get good starts, you’re playing with pace, you’re getting pucks in, and when you’re tracking throughout games real hard – it’s hard to play against,” Monahan said when asked what elements of their road game they might be able to translate into a tough environment at the Dome.

“We have a lot of guys that are physical.”

It’s time for the fans who have enjoyed watching this club get off to one of the best starts in franchise history to enjoy that kind of play here at home.

Monahan agrees.

“It’s always special to play in front of our fans. But this little home stand we’ve got coming up, it’s going to be exciting,” he said. “The fans deserve some good hockey.”

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