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New head coach Darryl Sutter conducts his first on-ice practice with Calgary Flames


CALGARY — They have just three wins in their last 10 games, but Darryl Sutter isn't expecting to make wholesale changes with the Calgary Flames.

Sutter conducted his first practice with the team Tuesday since being hired to replace Geoff Ward, who was fired last Thursday night. Calgary (11-12-3) is sixth in the North Division, four points behind the fourth-place Montreal Canadiens, who face the Flames on Thursday night.

The Canadiens also have two games in hand on Calgary, which is 3-5-2 in its last 10 games.

"Just to reinforce some areas that I think we can get better at," Sutter told reporters during a Zoom call Tuesday when asked what his immediate priorities are with the Flames. "With the way the schedule is, there's not much practice time so to be able to get (Tuesday) and (Wednesday) in and do some things in the room in terms of Xs and Os and things we can get better at, I think that's kind of my priority.

"Then obviously get ready for Montreal."

The 62-year-old native of Viking, Alta., is in his second stint with Calgary. He served as Flames head coach from 2002-06, guiding them to the '04 Stanley Cup final before a heart-breaking, seven-game loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Sutter was also Calgary's GM from 2003-2010. Over 18 seasons as an NHL head coach with Chicago, San Jose, Calgary and Los Angeles, Sutter boasts an overall record of 634-467-101-83.

He also led the Kings to Stanley Cup titles in 2012 and 2014.

With Sutter observing the NHL's COVID-19 protocols and tending to business on his ranch, the Flames went 0-1-1 under assistant Ryan Huska last weekend. They dropped a 3-2 decision to Edmonton on Saturday before losing 4-3 in a shootout to Ottawa on Sunday.

"I have a good grasp on them in terms of system and style, that sort of thing," Sutter said of the Flames. "The system is fine, it's the execution within it.

"There are two or three areas in there that I think I can help the guys with and they'll be good at it. That's not an issue."

As for potentially changing Calgary's line combinations, Sutter plans to take a wait-and-see approach.

"The lines part of it, well, that's a moving target, it doesn't matter where you go," he said. "I think this is a game-to-game thing until we get everything in order in terms of playing the right way and everybody playing together."

Flames defenceman Chris Tanev said he felt Sutter's impact upon the players immediately.

"Definitely the best practice we've had in a while," he said. "Guys were moving, the puck was moving.

"Coach stressed playing faster. That's something we've got to be better at and it started (Tuesday)."

Forward Matthew Tkachuk felt the opening session under Sutter "was very businesslike."

"We have a guy who's a proven winner, he's coming in with that winning mentality and that's what's exciting," he said.

Sutter said his first day back with Calgary was productive.

"I wanted to make sure we were clear in what we were trying to do," he said. "Everyone was in early and we had a good meeting and went over as much as we could without overloading them.

"Then go out on the ice and get to work. It was a good vibe, it was a good feeling. I think they have a really good, young group here, good leadership so we just have to get it all to come together."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 9, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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