CALGARY - Every time the Flames walk out of their locker room, they are greeted by wall after wall of drawings, photos and hand-written notes, the sheer volume of which warms the Saddledome's dreary cement and cinder-block corridors.
The local school children have been busy.
The Flames logo made of tissue paper, all three colors. An overhead photo of hundreds of children standing in the shape of the logo, all wearing red. Simple support in jagged penmanship: "Go Flames Go!"
"It's a nice touch," said forward Marcus Nilson, acquired just before the trade deadline. "I try to read a little bit every day as I walk by, but there's a lot of stuff up there."
And so much support out there. All of Canada is pulling for the Flames, setting aside provincial ties in favor of united nationalism. In Calgary, excitement over the hometown team has reached fever pitch.
The Saddledome will be whipped into a frenzy tonight for Game 3. And that can add up to a lot of pressure for the home team.
Inexplicably, Calgary is 4-5 at home in the playoffs.
"It's great to see the city doing it in a positive way, not going out and breaking windows or anything," defenseman Andrew Ference said. "As a player, it's great to hear that support and to get that support. But during a game, the benefits of that are not wide-ranging."
The Flames lost two of three at home against Vancouver, clinching the series with a Game 7 road win. It dropped Games 3 and 4 at home against San Jose in the West final, allowing the Sharks to even the series at 2-2.
Does all that adoration make the Flames nervous?
"I don't think so," defenseman Robyn Regehr said. "I think we have dealt with that situation throughout the playoffs and the first couple of home games. I think we were a little bit tentative when we came out. But I see no reason why we shouldn't come out and be on our game (tonight)."
Not everything has gone badly for Calgary at home. The Flames clinched the semifinal series against Detroit at home 1-0 and eliminated the Sharks in Game 6 3-1. They will try to rekindle that vibe tonight.
"We like playing here, we really do," said Jarome Iginla, who leads the playoffs with 11 goals. "It's a great atmosphere. Our last game here was good. We're going to build on that. We adjusted some things and our intensity was up last game at home. We want to have that same effort. It was a very big game, last game, and it's a very big one coming up."
The Lightning has been the best road team at 7-2, but does not expect the Flames to be a pushover in their own building, despite the recent struggles.
"There is some history that they did struggle in the playoffs here, but this is the final," Lightning forward Tim Taylor said. "We expect their best game."
So do the Flames.
"I think there's been some good games here at home in the playoffs for us, and some games that we have been a little flat," Iginla said. "This is as big as it gets, our biggest so far and we plan on being prepared and building off our last game. It was a very good effort here at home and we'll need that again."