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Archive for Sunday, May 23, 2004

Flames return to ice to prepare for finals

May 23, 2004

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— Calgary Flames forward Chris Clark was happy to get back on his skates Saturday.

The Flames clinched the Western Conference title Wednesday night when they eliminated San Jose, but that set up a five-day break before the start of the Stanley Cup finals.

"I was looking for ice (Friday), I'm not a big fan of taking days off like that," Clark said after the Flames held their first on-ice workout since the series clincher.

"It felt terrible -- you take a day off and it's like you've never skated before," said Clark as Calgary prepared for its first appearance in the finals since winning the Stanley Cup 15 years ago.

Eager to continue their unlikely march through the playoffs, the Flames were waiting for the winner of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday between Philadelphia and Tampa Bay.

The Lightning hung on to edge the Flyers, 2-1, to reach the finals for the first time. Game 1 of the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night at Tampa.

Calgary players were hoping the East finale would reach overtime, like Game 6 did in Philadelphia, and go deep into the night.

"I think it would be great for hockey to see the longest game in history, wouldn't it?" said Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who had a wide grin on his face.

"Just battle it out for a long, long game," said Iginla, the playoff scoring leader with 10 goals and seven assists.

Instead, the Flames will skate early today before flying to Florida to start their fourth straight series on the road.

There was a sense of playfulness around the Flames on Saturday, with a lot of joking on the ice and off.

"It was good to get some of the rust off -- if you looked at practice closely there was a lot of it out there," defenseman Andrew Ference said. "It's trying to get that intensity back up and peaked by the time we start the series. Everybody's antsy. There's that sense of, 'We're here, let's get at 'er.'"

Calgary is the first Stanley Cup finalist for Canada since the Vancouver Canucks lost in Game 7 to the New York Rangers in 1994. Montreal was the last champion from Canada when the Canadiens beat Los Angeles in 1993.

"We have a great opportunity here to do a great thing in a great city where everyone is excited," said Martin Gelinas, who has played in three previous Stanley Cup finals during his 16-year NHL career.

Still, the lengthy layoff has been a relief for a team that's gotten through the postseason by tough grinding and outskating their opponents.

"I was a little beat," forward Shean Donovan said. "It was nice to have those two days, but I knew when I woke up (Saturday) that it was back to business. I know it's totally into refocusing, recharging and bearing down for Game 1."

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