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CAPTAIN CAN'T WAIT

Giordano amped up to see first playoff action in almost a decade

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

ANAHEIM - For the franchise, the absence has been but a year.

For the captain, a decade.

"The excitement, personally,'' confessed Mark Giordano, mere hours away from his first post-season action in virtually 10 years, "is through the roof.

"I'm just trying to be as calm, as patient as possible.

"It's been a while, for sure.

"I might have a little trouble sleeping this afternoon.

"But you don't want to go out and have too much excitement because that can hurt you."

If the Flames are to end this curse, this jinx, this hex, this voodoo spell - this whatever-you-want-to-call-it - and push past the Anaheim Ducks, its goes without saying that Giordano must be a towering presence over the length of the series.

What better symmetry if, on a night their captain celebrates his return to the post-season, the Flames could put an end to an 11-year drought at the Arrowhead Pond/Honda Centre?

Thursday being only eight days removed from the 10-year anniversary of Giordano's last playoff appearance, April 22, 2007.

"I'll keep it simple the first couple of shifts and take it from there,'' he reckons.

"There are some games during the season that have a playoff feel, for different reasons. And those are almost the most fun.

"Here, though, you're playing the same team over and over again. It gets really intense. Grudges get carried over. You know what they say about familiarity.

"Rivalries, in my mind, are what make the game. But back-to-backs during the season have sort of gone away. The only way you can build a rivalry now is in the playoffs."

Which leads us to the 8:30 p.m. first instalment of what could very well wind up being a seven-game war of attrition.

A good deal of the pre-series chatter has centred around the burgeoning dislike between the participants, dating back to the five-game Anaheim elimination of their fellow Pacific Division inhabitants two spring times ago.

"We don't want to get into anything after the whistles and stuff like that,'' said Giordano, repeating a familiar refrain from the three down days waiting to get the hostilities started.

"In between the whistles, play hard. Play the right way. The emotion thing has been talked about quite a bit.

"The best players find that balance ... they channel emotion the right way."

The Pacific Division champions pose myriad headaches.

"They're a big team with a lot of skill,'' says Giordano. "But that's not telling you anything you don't already know. What's dangerous is that they make plays off the rush. They have individuals who can change the game with a play. We've got to eliminate that.

"We've got to play as fast as we can, especially on our breakouts and through the neutral zone. That's got to be our game plan.

"We want to push the pace. It's such a tough league now to get anything off the rush, especially with the way teams backcheck. You need that third, fourth and maybe even fifth guy jumping in. There's a fine line between playing safe and playing too aggressive but when we have chance, we definitely have the green light to jump in."

The Flames are hoping to continue a trend established on Night One of these playoffs that saw four of the five road teams emerge with wins.

After the 11:30 a.m. morning skate, back to the team hotel, lunch and some undoubtedly fitful, toss-and-turn shut-eye.

A decade of waiting. Not even a sleep away. Just a nap.

"Can't,'' says Giordano, "get here soon enough."

 

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