Flames pleased with their December, but expecting a grind going forward
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December was a pretty decent month for the Calgary Flames.
While they still have Saturday night’s New Year’s Eve game against the Vancouver Canucks to get through before the month is out, the Flames can look back on the 15 games they played in December and probably feel pretty good, all things considered.
They have played 15 games and scored points in 11 of them, including seven wins. Before the puck dropped in the league on Friday night, the Flames were also sitting third in the West Division.
So yes, there’s still a lot to do, but it’s been a pretty good December when you put it all together.
“I’m proud of the boys,” said Flames winger Tyler Toffoli. “The trip to California was obviously a goal of ours to do what we did and we found a way. We somehow missed the game in Edmonton (December 27). We had our chance and we passed it and had a good night against Seattle. I think we have to be proud of what we have achieved.
“It’s going to be difficult from now on. Of course we let some games go. We didn’t really play the way we wanted to, we let games slide and all that and we put ourselves in that position and from where we are we know we have to fight and fight the rest of the way .”
There seems to be a consensus among the Flames on this last point.
Although they’ve been playing better and getting better results lately, they’re still a long way from having a safety blanket in the Western Conference. After all, the Edmonton Oilers are currently the best team sitting outside of a playoff position, and they’re a point behind the Flames overall with a game in hand.
There’s no room for error for the Flames right now, and likely won’t be for the rest of the season. The Flames players seem to have accepted and even embraced that.
“We have one game left in December and it’s a big one, a league game. In order to keep up, it’s important to earn points and win hockey games,” said Flames veteran Milan Lucic. “We’re already in a position where it feels like we’re already playing playoff hockey, where every game counts, every two points count. That’s our focus right now, we’re just concentrating on our next game and we’re concentrating on the next two points and I think that’s helped our game this month.”
A good month won’t define the Flames’ season, and they know they need to keep it going both on Saturday night against the Canucks and into January, where they face a string of winnable games against struggling teams as well as some matchups need some elite opponents.
But December put the Flames in a decent position and taught them a little bit about their team’s identity. They know they have to grind night after night to get where they want to be.
“Close games are going to be our MO this year I think,” Flames winger Blake Coleman said. “We want to keep pushing so we don’t have to fight for a wildcard. We don’t want to fight for a wildcard spot, we want to be a team that fights for the top 3 in our division and we’re close to getting where we want to be, but we still managed to do some climbing before the All-Star break.”
The Flames had a practice session at Winsport on Friday morning. With a hockey tournament being held at the facility, many fans watched and were treated to a particularly quick session on the ice by the team. “It was a good little flush,” said Coleman. “Welcome back to the heights of Calgary. It was good, obviously yesterday I had the day to do a light workout. …. After being traded back to the AHL’s Calgary Wranglers on Thursday, center Radim Zohorna was recalled by the Flames on Friday morning.
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