Sputtering Flames seek spark vs. Senators

NHL Hockey

Rock bottom is not on the Calgary Flames’ itinerary for their current six-game road trip, but they appear to have taken a nasty detour in that direction.

After yet another one-sided loss — a 6-1 defeat at the hands of the last-place Ottawa Senators on Thursday — the Flames are searching to rebound in the rematch on Saturday afternoon. The Flames are mired in a 1-4-1 swoon in which they’ve been outscored by a 22-8 margin.

Naturally, the team’s struggles have put coach Geoff Ward on the hot seat, but the players know they are culpable for their woes.

“It’s on us. It’s on the players. We’ve got to be better,” forward Milan Lucic said. “Back at it Saturday afternoon, but it’s not a good feeling right now.

“I don’t think it’s about Xs and Os. It’s about us coming together as a group and playing together and for each other. This one’s on the players. The coaching staff hasn’t changed from last year and that was one of our strong points when we started to move in the right direction, the ability to play as a five-man unit. We have to find that again and it’s up to the players, no one else.”

The Flames and Senators are in the midst of four consecutive head-to-head games and five meetings in a span of six games. Having arrived after a couple of strong outings in Toronto, the Flames hoped to build on their performances. Instead, they were whitewashed by an Ottawa team that’s won three straight games for the first time this season.

As disappointing as the loss was to Calgary’s psyche, the manner in which the Flames fell apart while facing a 4-1 deficit is a major concern. Instead of providing a concerted push, they withered.

“We’ve been talking so much about starts and chasing the game. When something like this happens, the natural reaction is to say, ‘Here we go again.’ It makes it more difficult, especially the deeper the hole gets,” Ward said.

“It doesn’t matter when goals are scored or what’s going on, you’ve got to keep battling and find ways to get traction back in the hockey game. If things are going well and you get scored on, you certainly want to come back the next shift.”

The Senators, who won only two of their first 15 games (2-12-1), possess a confidence the Flames can only dream about these days.

“Everyone understands what their role is and what they have to do, and guys are excited to come to the rink,” Ottawa coach D.J. Smith said. “You can see them having fun on the bench. It wasn’t much fun that first little bit, but they’re having fun (now) and when you’re having fun, things go your way.”

The Senators have won five of their last seven outings.

“We’ve said for a while now we’ve been really happy with the way our game has been coming along,” defenseman Thomas Chabot said. “A couple of games didn’t go our way and we had some unlucky bounces. To get some wins is good for everyone.”

As dispirited as the Flames are right now, the Senators expect to see a much better Calgary team the next time they meet.

“We know they’re going to be coming hard,” Chabot said. “They’re a good team, but we have to enjoy that win and have a good practice and get ready for the next game.”

–Field Level Media

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