Flames Today: 13.10.10

Flames hit the ice as they get ready to face the Panthers

Wednesday, 13.10.2010 / 4:47 PM / Flames Today
By Kristi Hennessy
FAMILIAR FLORIDA FACES
 
Olli Jokinen played 567 games with the Florida Pathers missing just seven games during his seven-year tenure with the team.

You might think he would know everyone on the team. However, times have changed and it is not unusual to see teams flip rosters in a hurry.

The Panthers, a team consdered to be in a re-building mode, is one such case.

"I played seven years with them, that's my off season home," said Jokinen. "I've been in a few different teams since I left but it's been only two seasons if you look at it that way. But it still seems like a long time. I watched them on Sunday against Vancouver and it's like 80 percent of the team that I didn't recognize. They've been doing a lot of changes lately."

Defenceman Jay Bouwmeester, who played six seasons with the Panthers, also says that there are not too many familiar faces for him. A lot of things have changed, even since his last season in 2008-09.

"There are only a couple guys on there now that I really played with for any real amount of time so it's probably a little different now," said Bouwmeester. "I know that from my time there the only guys that really played together for more than maybe two years is Steve Weiss. He came in at the same time as me so I'm good friends with him."

That situation isn't quite the same for Stefan Meyer who was in the Panthers organization for four years but mostly on their AHL farm team, the Rochester Americans.

Meyer will most likely have more than a few familiar faces when the puck drops Thursday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome as the Panthers and Flames meet for the only time in the regular season (7:30 pm, Sportsnet Flames, Fan 960).

Meyer was drafted by the Panthers in the second round (55th overall) of the 2003 NHL entry draft. He was assigned to the Rochester Americans and played three seasons there before dressing in four NHL games with the Panthers in 2007-08. He was then re-assigned to Rochester for the 2008-09 season.

"I have quite a few buddies there actually that I played with in the minors in Rochester a couple years ago," said Meyer. "Actually a couple linemates are there (with Florida) now so it'll be pretty interesting. The coach, Pete DeBoer, I was still in Florida when he was there. I had a great year that last year. I was leading the American League in scoring pretty much all year and wasn't recalled once. I just want to do well against my old team."

Head coach Brent Sutter also has his own connection with the Florida Panthers. Sutter, DeBoer and Florida assistant Jim Hulton coached Team Canada at the 2005 World Junior Championships capturing a golfd medal.

"I've coached against Pete. This is our third year coaching against each other but, obviously, we have memories of coaching together at World Juniors. Pete is a very good coach and done a really good job there. It's been hard on him with missing the playoffs the last two years just like ourselves last year but he's a very good coach and I really enjoyed working with Pete. We see the game a lot alike and the way we'd like our teams to play," said Sutter.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

The Flames have only played a pair of games so far in the young NHL season which makes the game- to-practice ratio seem a little unbalanced. There have been so many practices in the past couple weeks that it could sometimes start to feel like groundhog day for some. Head coach Brent Sutter explains what practices mean to him and why they are so important, especially right now.

"It's going to heat up here for us," said Sutter. "We play Thursday and then Saturday and then we leave for three in four nights. Your schedule is your schedule. Once you get going into it, you get into quite a few games and they come in a hurry so we'll use this time wisely and make sure we get what we need out of practices."

What does Sutter get out of practices? Sutter says the most important thing is seeing improvement day in and day out across your entire roster.

"That's why you practice, so that you can go through the things you want to go through to make yourself a better team," Sutter said. "You work on your team play and your special teams. The important thing through it all is making sure we handle it right and treat practices like they are significant for us because they are. If we're creating good habits in practice, then it will certainly help us in game situations."

Sometimes good habits take longer than expected. The Flames top line of Olli Jokinen, Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay did not record a point in the Flames first two games despite generating a combined 20 shots on goal.

"You're best players need to be your best players," Sutter explained. "When that happens, it gives you a pretty good chance to win and succeed. We have to be more than a one-line team. I'm not in a situation right now, after Game 2, panicking over it but I also know that we certainly need production from our top guys. As long as they continue to push through, to continue to work on things to make it happen, it'll sort itself out."

Jokinen feels much the same about the top line performance. He feels they are on the right track and now just have capitalize on those chances.

 "Obviously it was a big win for us last game," said Jokinen. "We played a lot better as a team than we did in the first game. As a line we made some good plays and had some chances to score but overall you have to look at the big picture. You guys (media) love stats more than anyone else. It's no secret that we want to score obviously and want to on the scoreboard every night but at the end of the day all that matters is the team getting points. We want to chip in and help our team get wins.

"Both games we feel like we haven't played as well as a line the way we'd like to. We've had four or five chances to put the puck in the net. We're confident that the goals will come."

Author: Kristi Hennessy