Flames prepare to battle on the road
New line combinations set to debut in road games in Dallas and St. Louis
“I got it battling,” Iginla said after another intense ice session at the Pengrowth Saddledome on Thursday morning prior to the Flames heading out on a two-game road trip.
Iginla admitted that he acquired the black eye during a heated one-on-one battle with a teammate during Monday’s fervent practice, although he wouldn’t disclose who gave it to him.
“I’m not giving that credit out,” said the Calgary captain, shrugging off the minor injury. “It’s part of hockey. It’s an intense sport, part of the physical nature, the physical side of it.”
Flames bench boss Brent Sutter was unapologetic in regards to trying to get his players to raise their compete level before heading out on the road for games in Dallas against the Stars on Wednesday and the next night in St. Louis against the Blues.
“There needs to be more aggression in our game,” Sutter said. “I’m talking about just overall as far as battling and competing for things and competing for space on the ice and wanting to have the puck as a team, drawing more penalties.
“I’m not accustomed to coaching teams that don’t compete at a high level.”
Iginla agreed with his coach that the Flames have to revamp their game if they’re going to snap their two-game losing streak.
“The coaching staff has definitely made it clear to us that we haven’t played well in the last two games, but also that we haven’t been competing hard enough,” said Iginla, adding that the Flames will have extra motivation against Dallas to avenge a 5-2 loss they suffered to the Stars in Calgary on Oct. 9.
“No matter who we’re playing, we don’t need any motivation. We’re sick of losing. It’s been tough around here as it should be. We want to get back on the other side of it and back climbing in the standings.”
In another effort to spark his squad, Sutter switched around his lines at Tuesday’s practice.
Centre Olli Jokinen started out with Iginla and Eric Nystrom on his wings before David Moss moved up to play left wing on the top line part way through the practice.
“It was time to shake it up a little bit,” said Sutter, who kept together his second line of Daymond Langkow between Rene Bourque and Nigel Dawes. “I’d like to leave the three of them alone. It’s somebody out of the rest of the group that needs to fit in (on the top line with Jokinen and Iginla).”
For his part, Iginla said he’s looking forward to being reunited on the No. 1 line with Jokinen and whoever plays on the left side.
“I always enjoy playing with him,” Iginla said of Jokinen. “He’s a big, strong, smart hockey player. I think we’re about to break out. There’s definitely fire there. We know that both of us haven’t been playing as well as we need to play in order to help the team.”
To start Tuesday’s practice, Craig Conroy played centre on a line with wingers Brandon Prust and Fredrik Sjostrom, while Dustin Boyd suited up between Curtis Glencross and Moss, who’s used to being moved around from line to line.
“It’s nothing new, that’s for sure,” said Moss, who’s hoping to improve upon his totals of three goals and one assists in seven games so far this season. “It’s one of those things where you just adjust and whoever you’re playing with try and make the best of it.”
With a pair of road games on back-to-back nights, Sutter hinted that he’ll most likely give goalie Miikka Kiprusoff a rest after he makes his eighth consecutive start against the Stars.
That means that back-up netminder Curtis McElhinney could perhaps get the starting assignment on Thursday in St. Louis.
“Honestly, I’m excited,” said McElhinney, who stopped 25 of 29 shots he faced in his lone start of the season against the Stars. “I can’t wait for it.”
With the Flames playing 10 of 14 games in November on the road, McElhinney will most likely see more ice time than he has so far.
“You just want to get in there and feel comfortable,” said the Calgary native. “I’m looking forward to this month. It should be fun and hopefully I’ll get a few opportunities.”