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Flames enjoy shock value

Wire services
Published May 13, 2004

SAN JOSE, Calif. - The mood in the Flames' locker room after Game 2 of the Western Conference final was a perfect reflection of their feelings about this incredible playoff run: giddy enthusiasm coupled with a hint of disbelief.

Andrew Ference exchanged a high-five with Rhett Warrener. Jarome Iginla held court in the corner, greeting anybody who approached with a smile. Even taciturn Miikka Kiprusoff ran a steady stream of chatter with teammates.

With Game 3 tonight at home, who expected sixth-seeded Calgary to be two games from its first Stanley Cup final in 15 years?

"Nobody, that's who," Ference said with a grin. "Nooooobody."

Certainly not Vancouver or Detroit, the two higher-seeded teams knocked off in the first two rounds by the hardworking bunch of unknowns behind Iginla.

Certainly not the Sharks, who had won five of six home playoff games before losing twice in three days to the Flames.

Even Calgary acknowledges its first postseason trip in eight years is going better than anyone anticipated. It is peaking at the best possible time in what already has been a dream season for a franchise that's been mediocre since its only championship in 1989.

"We're right where we want to be, but we're not going to get overconfident, and we're not going to take anything for granted," said Iginla, the playoffs' leading scorer with seven goals and seven assists. "We're going to make sure that we manage our emotions and take the same approach to every game.

"We know how big the next game is, what a 3-0 lead can mean, but we're not going to get ahead of ourselves because it can switch after the next game."

The Flames have been terrible guests in the playoffs, winning seven of nine road games. They're .500 at home, where thousands of playoff-starved fans have blanketed the Saddledome in red each night.

That palpable pressure could be an obstacle for the team, which understandably might flinch under the weight of a hockey-crazed city's dreams. But if Calgary sticks to its formula of hard work and great goaltending, there's no reason to expect this run to end.

While the Flames enjoyed their success, the Sharks practiced Wednesday before flying to Calgary. Coach Ron Wilson pondered big changes to a lineup that hasn't changed since the regular season.

"I'm just shaking the tree right now in practice to see what results," Wilson said. "We've changed our lines, promoted or demoted guys accordingly, just to change our practice, get guys to work a little bit different. What we'll decide to do for the game (today) is an entirely different story."

Among those who might be demoted or scratched: Nils Ekman, who has two playoff points after getting 55 in the regular season; Curtis Brown, who also has two and a minus-4; or Wayne Primeau, with one goal and a minus-7.

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