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Don't tell anyone inside the Flames locker room that Saturday's exhibition game doesn't matter.
Saturday night's game against the Vancouver Canucks (7 pm, Fan 960 calgaryflames.com Streaming Live) marks the last opportunity for the Flames to shake off the summer cobwebs before the games count in the standings, but the team has raised the bar among themselves for the few last preseason games, trying to compete at a level measurably closer to the level of intensity found during the regular season.
"Everyone has been talking about the first game of the regular season on October 1, but we've had the mindset the last few days that we really have to buckle down, and our season started in Edmonton," said Flames head coach Brent Sutter.
Sutter began training camp by getting the entire team back to basics, and practices have been firmly rooted in instruction for the players. But as the pre-season wanes, the coach wants all the lessons to start to sink in with the players.
"They've got to start seeing the things we've been working on, and individuals have to start playing at the level we expect them to play at. Accountability has to come in."
It hasn't just been the younger players that are being taught under the new regime, the veteran players have been getting back to fundamentals many of them probably hadn't practiced in ages. Olli Jokinen is in his tenth year in the NHL, and even he finds himself benefitting from Sutter's instruction.
"Camp has been going well, we learn something new everyday and try to get everybody on the same page, learn the system, and we're going in the right direction," said Jokinen, who has been arguably the Flames' top player in the preseason, with four goals and seven points in four games.
Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who at times over the course of camp has received his share of lessons from the coaches, knows the team still has a bit to go to get to where they want to be.
"We see that we need improvement and we've been working on that, the last couple of games it's been getting better and we just want to keep it going, keep paying attention and focusing," said Iginla.
Jokinen and Iginla have proven a potent duo in their exhibition games, and there has been a great deal of experimentation in an attempt to find a suitable linemate for the two. Olli Jokinen for one is glad he doesn't have to make the decision himself.
"The coaches are probably looking to put the right pieces in the right places, our job is just to play and luckily we don't have to think about that."
The Vancouver Canucks have had a dominant pre-season, losing their first game Thursday night in overtime against the Anaheim Ducks. The Flames' main divisional rival, the team that creped by the Flames last season in the final days of last year's regular season to claim the Northwest Division crown, will be back at the 'Dome for the season opener.
The teams went 2-2-2 against each other last season, and with a couple of savvy additions up front and their usual imposing backend, they look to be the Flames’ toughest divisional opponent again this year.
In his first full season as a member of the Calgary Flames, Olli Jokinen is already well acquainted with the rivalry between the Flames and Canucks, and he is looking forward to revving it up again.
"We've got one more game to go, and we want to end the preseason on a positive note and set the tone against this team," said Jokinen.
"That's a team we're going to play six times this year so it's a good test for us."
Fans can expect to see a team that will closely mirror the Flames' regular season squad. As well as trying to maintain a high level of play, coach Sutter feels it's as important for everybody to get a feel for each other on the ice.
"I want to see a more experienced lineup. It's really important to have a feel for your team, but more importantly the players will get a feel for what the team will look like," said Sutter.