Flames can advance with win
CALGARY, Alberta -- There was an odd silence in the Calgary Flames' locker room Sunday.
The mood was subdued and the players spoke in hushed tones, well aware of the challenge they face.
The Flames can advance to the Western Conference final if they beat the Red Wings in Game 6 of their semifinal series on Monday night. Calgary used a 1-0 victory in Detroit on Saturday to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
"Our preparation today was pretty focused," Calgary captain Jarome Iginla said. "We're not that excited as far as our win yesterday. We're not all smiles around here. We realize there is more work to be done in this series and the next game."
The Flames finished sixth in the conference to reach the playoffs for the first time in eight years. They are on the verge of eliminating a Detroit team that had the best regular-season record in the NHL and has won three Stanley Cups since 1997.
Calgary has been called a lot of things during their playoff run: overachievers, tenacious, hard working. The one label defenseman Andrew Ference hopes the team has shaken is underdog.
"I've always hated that term," Ference said.
"If you say you're the underdog, it's almost like failure is all right and winning is kind of a bonus. That's kind of a twisted way to go about things if you're expecting your team to win and do well in the playoffs.
"We're more just grasping the moment and grasping the opportunity to be in a situation that a lot of us haven't been in before."
Detroit will play without captain Steve Yzerman, who underwent 4½ hours of surgery Saturday night after being hit in the face by a puck in the loss.
Yzerman has a scratched cornea and broken bone just below his left eye. He had experienced blurred vision in his left eye, which improved after surgery.
Center Kris Draper said the Red Wings have the veteran experience to overcome the loss of Yzerman.
"You look around the room and there are a lot of leaders," Draper said. "There are a lot of characters in this room and it's up to us to step up collectively as a group. Everyone realizes what's on the line."
The Wings have faced elimination before. They trailed Colorado 3-2 in the Western Conference final in 2002, but rallied to win the series and went on to defeat Carolina in the Stanley Cup final.
"Anything can happen in Game 7, but we've got to get to Game 7," coach Dave Lewis said.
Detroit will want a fast start to silence the thunderous noise at the Pengrowth Saddledome and slow streaking goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, who made 31 saves Saturday. It was the first time in seven years the Red Wings were shut out in a home playoff game.
"We've got to start playing more desperate," defenseman Mathieu Schneider said. "We've got to get bodies in front of him (Kiprusoff). We've got to get dirty goals."
The Flames had a chance to eliminate Vancouver in six games in an opening-round series, but faced a four-goal deficit before battling back to tie the game. They eventually lost 5-4 in triple overtime.
It was a learning experience for the young Flames.
"We learned what not to do," Ference said. "It was a really good lesson to learn how a desperate hockey team plays when they're against the ropes. We're playing against a team that is even more experienced, a more talented group. "
There's no question Calgary would love to wrap up the series Monday and have a break before facing either San Jose or Colorado in the conference final.
"We realize it's going to be our toughest game," said Iginla. "We're not going to get ahead of ourselves."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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