Flames eager for opportunity to prove themselves against NHL titans
Calgary heads into hostile Chicago barn on Tuesday as serious underdogs
The league-leading Chicago Blackhawks could very well look at Tuesday night’s clash with the Calgary Flames as the free space on the proverbial bingo card.
After all, Chicago battled the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings Monday night at the assault on the senses better known as the United Center. And the Flames, in recent times, have served as easy prey on home ground for the Hawks.
But Bob Hartley figures no team is misguided enough to look past the opposition in this era of parity — not even a group like the Flames that has somehow lost nine (!) straight on the road.
“There was a time in the NHL that I remember watching when I was a kid,” the Calgary head coach was saying Monday morning before boarding a charter flight to the Windy City. “There were some great, great teams and there were some awful teams.
“Today, this league is so, so even with the parity, that there’s no free two points.”
Based on the numbers, the Hawks could be forgiven for looking at these two points as easier than most. After all, Jonathan Toews and Co. have beaten the Flames eight times in a row at the Madhouse on Madison.
Most Flames games at the United Center result in a pretty much constant loop of “Do, do, do ... do, do, do” from the grating Chicago goal song, Chelsea Dagger by the Fratelli’s.
“Here’s a team that won the Stanley Cup a couple of years ago,” Hartley said. “They’re very strong contenders. So we’ll have to be at our best. I’m sure our players will be ready for the challenge.”
To a man, the players raved Sunday night about the challenge of beating the Hawks in perhaps the most hostile environment in the sport (with all due respect, of course, to Philadelphia and Manhattan.)
“It’s a fun building to play in,” said centre Michael Cammalleri. “As an athlete, you love to challenge yourself against the best. And you love beating the best, because it makes you feel like the best.”
That “best feeling” is an elusive target for a team on the verge of a massive rebuild.
“I don’t think we have anything to lose,” said defenceman Jay Bouwmeester. “They’re doing what they’re doing.
“Sometimes the attitude you have to have is just to go and work and give them a hard game. I mean, we’ve proven that we can play. We’ve beaten some pretty good teams at home here. And we had a really good game against Chicago earlier in the year.
“We just have to forget about all that other stuff and just go play.”
All that other stuff presumably includes the steady whirl of trade speculation surrounding this club. Bouwmeester is a constant subject of rumours, as are captain Jarome Iginla and goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.
Like Iginla, Bouwmeester has a no-movement clause, so he would have to approve any deal before consummation.
“If you don’t pay too much attention to it, you can kind of get away from it,” Bouwmeester said of the furor surrounding the April 3 trade deadline. “It is what it is.
“I don’t watch a lot of TV or anything like that. So if you’re not looking for it, you can probably avoid it.”
Avoiding it might be easier on the road, far from inquiring family members and friends. But the Flames are riding a seven-game winning streak at home and need just one more loss to set a dubious franchise record of 10 straight defeats away from the cosy confines of the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Regardless, forward Jiri Hudler can’t wait for puck drop against the Hawks.
“I like that building,” said the former Detroit Red Wing. “I’ve played a lot there. It’s going to be a lot of fun. They’re going well, but the last game I thought we had a great game against them.
“We’ve got a good team. We weren’t good on the road, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to be good this time.”
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