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Flames fired up to take to Saddledome ice against Ducks

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Michael Frolik holds wistful memories of the off-the-charts Winnipeg Whiteout bedlam inside the MTS Centre two springtimes ago.

Now he's looking forward to the C of Red raising the ante.

He expects the Flames to be greeted by a virtual wall of Dolby Stereo, eardrum-piercing, shake-the-foundations sound tonight.

"Looking back, I still have goosebumps thinking about that playoff in Winnipeg," Frolik said Monday morning, harkening back to the series that welcomed NHL playoff hockey back to the Manitoba capital. "Everybody in white. Even during the warm-up they were cheering 'Go Jets go!' You couldn't hear yourself think.

"It was crazy.

"That's why a big start is important for us tonight. We want to get our fans into it right away. You can build on that.

"I can't wait to see what it's like.

"We're looking for big energy, big juice.

"When the crowd's going, it energizes you. Every hit, every play you make. Every good thing you do. It gets louder and louder, more and more.

"That's the best I've ever experienced, that year in Winnipeg.

"I'm expecting our fans to be as loud, or louder."

Kris Versteeg soaked in the nuthouse atmosphere of the second incarnation of the Madhouse on Madison during his Stanley Cup years outfitted in Blackhawks apparel.

"I remember back in 2009 at the United Centre it was one of the craziest atmospheres you've ever seen, in your entire life,'' he reminisced.

"It's something guys will remember their whole lives. In the Calgary series and then Vancouver, we were riding the wave of the home crowd.

"We're looking forward to doing that tonight.

"Everybody benefits from it but the crowd gets certain players more engaged in a game. I say you watch out for Micheal Ferland tonight."

With Game 3 on deck and the ramifications beyond debate, the 19,000-plus can play their part.

"With the series being so tight the guys are excited about the crowd giving us a little extra juice,'' chimed in coach Glen Gulutzan.

"It's been a tough, hard-fought series so I think the crowd's going to play a factor, for sure.

"I can tell in there (the dressing room), that everybody feels it, the buzz around the city. I know we'll have some juice."

In pinpointing a series microcosm look no further than the ongoing duel between Versteeg and Anaheim's Corey Perry. Lined up against each other throughout the first two games, the rancour - prodding, chirping, baiting - has been

Perry, of course, owns a richly-deserved reputation for being as welcoming as a bed of nails.

"Oh, I think I can be really annoying, too,'' protested Versteeg. "I think I can be super annoying.

"Whoever I line up against on the other side I want to battle.

"Whoever's there, I'm going to go like that.

"I'm sure if both of us were mic-ed, you guys would have a good chuckle. Good thing we've never been mic-ed.

"I'm not giving any version. I'll leave it up to everyone's imagination.

"It's fun. I love it.

"It's competitive. I know I won't give an inch and vice versa."

For their part, the Ducks are steeling themselves for a Storm-the-Bastille approach around 8:07 or so, after the final strains of O Canada have been sung.

"It's a matter of what we do,'' reasoned Perry. "We know they're going to come out hard. They're going to be strong. They're going to be hungry.

"We want to have a strong start. We know they're going to have a strong push. It's about keeping our emotions, keeping our discipline, staying calm. Don't get out of sorts. Keep going the right way and good things are going to happen.

"The first five minutes are going to be crucial in this game."

Desperately unlucky not to be at least on even terms heading into this swing Game 3, Gulutzan admits a few areas need sprucing up and upgrading this evening.

A sturdier start.

Improved discipline.

A more voracious appetite in seizing opportunities off rebounds and second chances.

And, maybe, if the notoriously fickle Hockey Gods have the slightest bit of decency or sense of fair play in them, a bounce or two.

"We haven't got any puck luck,'' agreed the boss. "One of the things we talked about is how you win in the playoffs … overtime games, you gotta be hard on the blue, at the bluelines and in the blue paint.

"But you need puck-luck.

"We just gotta keep working. That can change. To get some puck luck you have to work through it."

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