Flames visit their haunted house in Anaheim

 

 
 
 
 
Calgary Flames centre Markus Granlund was sent flying through the air by Anaheim Ducks right winger Kyle Palmieri during the teams' meeting earlier this month. They renew the rivalry on Tuesday night in Anaheim where Calgary hasn't won since January 2004.
 

Calgary Flames centre Markus Granlund was sent flying through the air by Anaheim Ducks right winger Kyle Palmieri during the teams' meeting earlier this month. They renew the rivalry on Tuesday night in Anaheim where Calgary hasn't won since January 2004.

Photograph by: Colleen De Neve, Calgary Herald

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Trimmed neatly in marble and granite, surrounded by palm trees, this building is welcoming, not threatening.

Other rinks have signs forbidding guns and knives. This venue? Once upon a time, visitors to the press box were greeted by this edict: “No cut-offs. No flip-flops.” So hardly a gritty joint — unless you include beach sand.

Mere minutes to the west? The Happiest Place On Earth. Yes, Disneyland.

And when the Honda Center flung open its gates in 1993, what happened to be the christening event?

A Nine Inch Nails concert perhaps?

Nope. A Barry Manilow show. Frightening enough in its own way, of course, but this is no intimidating barn.

So explain the Calgary Flames’ run of ineptitude there, the scene of 18 — yes, 18 — straight losses.

Here, if you can’t remember from last time, are the nuts and bolts.

The Flames won Jan. 19, 2004, at the Honda Center — a 5-1 decision featuring Craig Conroy’s four assists and Roman Turek’s 34 saves. Curiously, neither Jarome Iginla (sprained ankle) nor Miikka Kiprusoff (left knee) dressed.

Since that night, the Flames have lost … lost again … then lost some more (0-13-5).

The Calgarians — including nine appearances (0-4-5) prior to that stand-alone triumph — have exactly one win in the last 28 visits.

Players, as always, had been thrilled to explain their spell of fruitlessness in Orange County.

As Ladislav Smid hems and haws through an answer, a veteran behind him mutters: “It’s starting already.”

There is, ahem, one obvious solution, no?

The Flames get another crack Tuesday at the home-ice Ducks, then again Jan. 21.

“It would be nice,” Mark Giordano, chuckling, says of the prospect of never again having to field questions about the slide. “No, seriously, it’s been a long time.

“It’s tough. One of those things. We’ve seemed to struggle in that building over the years. Now’s as good a time as ever to change that and finally get a win there.”

So is slump-breaking a rally cry?

Not exactly.

“I think you try to not talk too much about it,” says Giordano. “It’s one of those weird stats.”

Coaches want to game-plan around their own strengths. Meaning a skid like this isn’t going to top any list of talking points. Players will be spared the indignity of staring at a whiteboard, outlining their shortcomings, prior to puck-drop.

“If there’s positives, we use them,” Bob Hartley says of his motivational spiels. “If there are negatives, hey, we try to forget about them.”

The coach, barely taking a breath, veers sharply into happier territory.

“I like the way our team is heading,” Hartley continues. “It’s a different mindset. We’re improving.”

Of that, there is no question.

This is a new squad, a surprisingly deadly bunch, and ever-game. All of which is reflected in the standings where the 13-7-2 Flames are within gobbing distance of the Western Conference’s peak.

“This year is different,” says Smid. “We’re going to go to Anaheim and keep this good thing going. The nice thing to see? We never quit in any games. You can see it so many times already.”

When trailing after 40 minutes, the Flames were 4-27-2 last season.

When trailing after 40 minutes, today’s group is 5-6-0.

“There’s buildings, but there’s also ingredients,” says Hartley, referring to his current mix in the dressing room. “The ingredients over here are changing.”

Giordano agrees.

“For sure,” says the Flames captain. “Even from two years, three years ago … every year the team changes.”

Sometimes, though, it seems fate is eager to box the Calgarians’ ears in this arena.

Take one of last winter’s excursions to Anaheim.

Late in the second period of a close night, Teemu Selanne breaks his own stick by slashing Giordano at the Anaheim blue line. The old boy skims over to the Ducks bench for a fresh twig — and what do you know?

Jakob Silfverberg spies Selanne and finds him with a breakaway pass. The Finnish Flash converts for what will stand up as the winning goal.

Which kept the curse alive.

“It’s motivation — we want to end that,” says T.J. Brodie. “But you just can’t focus on that. If you start getting too superstitious about it, then it gets you off your game, you start gripping the stick too tight, because you want it to end so bad.”

Adds Smid: “This team believes in itself. Hopefully we’re going to carry our good atmosphere and that momentum into Anaheim’s building, and, hopefully, we’re finally going to get two points out of there.”

scruickshank@calgaryherald.com

 
 
 
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Calgary Flames centre Markus Granlund was sent flying through the air by Anaheim Ducks right winger Kyle Palmieri during the teams' meeting earlier this month. They renew the rivalry on Tuesday night in Anaheim where Calgary hasn't won since January 2004.
 

Calgary Flames centre Markus Granlund was sent flying through the air by Anaheim Ducks right winger Kyle Palmieri during the teams' meeting earlier this month. They renew the rivalry on Tuesday night in Anaheim where Calgary hasn't won since January 2004.

Photograph by: Colleen De Neve, Calgary Herald

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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