CALGARY — Despite being winners of three straight, Calgary head coach Brent Sutter isn’t about to go lightly on his Flames players.
Sutter put his team through yet another intense practice on Monday morning prior to heading out for a three-game road trip.
The Flames (10-4-1) will face off against the Canadiens in Montreal on Tuesday before back-to-back games against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday and the Toronto Maple Leafs the next night.
“We’re going into three tough buildings and we’ve got to play well,” stressed Sutter, who gave his players a talking to part way through Monday’s practice before making them skate lines. “I just felt our practice started like the way we played the other night (in a 3-1 win over the New York Rangers at home on Saturday). I wasn’t pleased with the way we played even though we did win the game.
“It’s not the way we want to play as far as our sloppiness and giveaways and not being a smart team.”
Forward Nigel Dawes, who assisted on all three Calgary goals against the Rangers, said he wasn’t surprised that Sutter continues to demand more from his players.
“If you’re not doing things the way he likes, sometimes he’ll try and make a point,” said Dawes, who’s now tied for third in scoring on the team with 10 points (four goals, six assists). “We were kind of lackadaisical in the d-zone and last game we gave up way too many chances and he wasn’t happy with that.”
Following a day off on Sunday, Flames captain Jarome Iginla expected Monday’s practice to be intense in advance of Calgary’s road trip.
“I think that’s becoming the norm, these type of practices,” said Iginla, who was named the NHL’s first star of the week after recording four goals and one assist to lead Calgary to three straight wins. “They’re definitely intense and that’s part of pushing to get better and not be satisfied.”
Iginla agreed that the Flames have to heed Sutter’s message to concentrate on playing better defensively.
“It was a good week for our team, but at the same time, you look at the standings and they’re tight and there’s absolutely no time for rest,” said Iginla, who scored in overtime to earn the Flames a 3-2 road win over the Dallas Stars last Wednesday before also recording the game-winner against the Rangers. “We’re going on the road now and I think he’s just making the point (that) as good as it was, we’ve got to keep pushing forward.”
For the Flames to build upon their winning streak, Sutter said Iginla will have to continue to play with the same “competitive fire” that he displayed last week.
“In the last three games, Jarome has picked his game up to a level where I certainly expect him at,” Sutter said. “We need our captain to lead that way. He needs to be our hardest working player.”
The Flames will be without forward Curtis Glencross for the next three games as a result of a three-game suspension handed down by the NHL on Monday afternoon. Glencross was suspended for a high hit on Chris Drury 48 seconds into Saturday’s game that left the New York forward with a concussion. No penalty was called on the play.
Without Glencross in the lineup, the Flames will have to work even harder at playing solid defensively away from the friendly confines of the Pengrowth Saddledome.
“We’re not going to get the matchups we want, so that means everybody’s got to really make sure they’re playing their best defensive game and continue to capitalize on our chances and just play good, solid road hockey,” said forward Eric Nystrom, who’s looking forward to starting out the road trip playing in front of a rambunctious crowd at Montreal’s Bell Centre. “It’s a great place to play. I love going on the road and playing in other team’s buildings and having the crowd cheering against you.”
Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, who made 32 saves in a first-star performance against the Rangers, said he’ll have to continue to be on top of his game against the Canadiens, who have been led offensively by former Flame Michael Cammalleri with seven goals and seven assists.
“He’s always dangerous,” Kiprusoff said. “We played them here a few weeks ago (in a 4-3 win for the Flames in Calgary on Oct. 6) and he had some good chances. He has a good shot and he’s not afraid to use it, so I have to be aware.”
Forward Fredrik Sjostrom practised on the top line with Iginla and Olli Jokinen on Monday, but had to be attended to by trainers after being hit by a shot.