By John Nestor

Calgary, AB, Canada

The Calgary Flames waited a little too long to start playing to their potential last season. It's a fact they are well aware of and determined not to repeat as they prepare for the 2011-12 campaign.

Looking for a return to the playoffs, Calgary knows the key will be playing good hockey early in the season.

Last year the Flames were 14th in the Western Conference with a 16-18-3 record in late December but after the new year they caught fire.

From Jan. 11 to the end of the season, Calgary went 23-9-7 but it still finished three points out of the eighth playoff spot in the West.

"We really want to build off the second half we had," forward Brendan Morrison told "We gained a lot of momentum in the second half and had a good push but came up short. It was a real positive to finish that way. Now the challenge is to start the season the way we finished (last season)."

A good way to avoid the early-season swoon will be to enter the season with a healthy Jarome Iginla.

The Flames captain was out for the second straight practice Monday with back spasms he bagn suffering on Saturday.

The longer he is out, the more questions will arise about the severity of the injury, but the 34-year-old winger insists the injury is a minor issue.

"I'm feeling better today," Iginla said. "Talking with Brent and Jay, with the way our schedule works, make sure that it's 100 percent so I don't just re-aggravate it. It's definitely better today than it was yesterday. I don't think it will be too long."

The Flames certainly hope not, because this year they know they can't wait too long to get going.


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Calgary Flames Hope to Start New Season Like They Ended Last One: Hot