Calgary gets some rust off after rest

Updated: May 22, 2004, 10:18 PM ET
Associated Press

CALGARY, Alberta -- 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 the San Jose Sharks, but that set up a lengthy break before Tuesday's Game 1 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 the Flames won 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 between Philadelphia and Tampa Bay.

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

Calgary players were hoping the East finale would reach overtime, as 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.

Iginla's linemate Craig Conroy echoed the sentiment.

"I just hope I go to dinner and it's still on tomorrow when I wake up," he said.

Instead, the Flames will skate early Sunday before flying out for their fourth straight series opener 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 to the New York Rangers in 1994 in seven games. Montreal was the last champion from Canada; the Canadiens beat the Los Angeles Kings 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 has gotten through the postseason by tough grinding and outskating its 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."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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