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by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

Lightning visit 'Dome for first time since 2004 Cup Final

by Aaron Vickers

For the first time since dropping Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Tampa Bay, the Calgary Flames (36-22-9) will square off against the Lightning (38-27-4) at the Pengrowth Saddledome Saturday night.

One shouldn''t confuse the game with a playoff rematch, however.

With over 30 months and 1,000 days separating games between the two clubs, rosters from both the Lightning and the Flames have evolved. In fact, just 10 players from Tampa Bay and eight from Calgary remain on the roster from the 2004 playoffs, including the recent re-acquisition of Calgary forward Craig Conroy, who left the club shortly after the Cup run.

Gone from the Lightning is goaltender Nikolai Khabibulan, who left after the Cup victory via free agency to join the Chicago Black Hawks. With a salary cap system in place, general manager Jay Feaster couldn''t keep Khabibulan''s $6,750,000 salary in the budget.

Both Cory Stillman and Pavel Kubina also left via free agency; Kubina joined the Toronto Maple Leafs last season while Stillman signed with the Carolina Hurricanes after the lockout – winning his second Stanley Cup in as many years.

Still with the team are former Flames winger Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, who sit second and third respectively in league scoring this year. 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Brad Richards, who registered nine points in the Stanley Cup final against Calgary, is also still with the team.

All three players were teammates of Calgary captain Jarome Iginla and defenseman Robyn Regehr at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino.

Six defensemen used in the playoffs for Calgary are gone from the franchise. Toni Lydman and Mike Commodore were dealt for draft picks in the summer of 2005, while Denis Gauthier went to the Phoenix Coyotes along with Oleg Saprykin to acquire Daymond Langkow.

Steve Montador was also dealt to the Florida Panthers for current Flame Kristian Huselius, Jordan Leopold was dealt this past offseason to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Alex Tanguay, and Andrew Ference was dealt just three weeks ago along with Chuck Kobasew – another member of the 2004 playoffs team – to acquire forward Wayne Primeau and blueliner Brad Stuart.

Primeau, Stuart, Huselius and Tanguay are just four of 22 new bodies to suit up in the red this season that weren''t on the 2004 Western Conference champions. Consequently, Tampa Bay has had 16 new faces from their Stanley Cup victory in the lineup this year.

Stuart will be heavily relied upon to bring the Flames back to postseason glory. Joining him as fresh faces on the blueline are Roman Hamrlik and Dion Phaneuf, both of which were members of the Flames team which lost to the Anaheim Ducks in the first round last season. Mark Giordano, Andrei Zyuzin and Chris Hale will make their Calgary Flames debut this postseason.

The game against Calgary will be Tampa Bay''s fifth of a six game roadtrip. After kicking off the trip with a 5-4 shootout victory over the Washington Capitals, the Lightning dropped back-to-back contests against the state rival Florida Panthers and Vancouver Canucks before defeating the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 Wednesday.

The contest will mark the first home game in March for the Flames, who went 2-1 on a recent roadtrip, including victories over the Oilers and St. Louis Blues. The Flames have a league-best 27 wins on home ice.

Tampa Bay is 20-13-3 away from the St. Pete Times Forum.

Game time is set for 8 p.m. MT and will be broadcast on The Fan 960 and CBC.

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