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Flames feeling good about their game and excited for big test against defending Stanley Cup champion Blues

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /

There were smiles in the room. 

Energy in the gym. 

Bellowing laughter and precision on the ice. 

Like a two-ton weight has been freed from their backs, the players look like a bushy-tailed bunch once again. 

"It was nice to address it in the meeting that we had after the Arizona game," said Milan Lucic, who returned after a two-game suspension and had one of his best games of the season Thursday. "I think a lot of guys were feeling it. 

"We were like, 'Yeah, we're getting points and winning games...' but we weren't exactly playing up to our potential as a team. Nowhere close.

"You could feel it after a win, when it's just not the same feeling. When you win and you know that you deserved it, you earned it, it has a different impact on you mentally. 

"To know that on Thursday, we earned that with a great effort from start to finish, that definitely gets the blood flowing and gives you that feeling that you want to carry it over.

"Not only game-by-game, but day-by-day, practice-by-practice. We all came in yesterday buzzing about our game, excited about the challenge ahead of facing the defending champs.

"Now, it's game day. 

"And we're ready."


Video: "I think it's our biggest test of season so far"


The Flames (10-7-2) are coming off what was easily their best and most complete effort of the season on Thursday, crushing the visiting the New Jersey Devils 5-2 to give them wins in four of their last five. 

It was a great response to the challenge issued by their head coach following a fortuitous overtime triumph over the Arizona Coyotes 48 hours earlier, and a sign - perhaps - that a corner has been turned. 

There's been no escaping the positive vibe around the Scotiabank Saddledome over the past few days - the players, coaching and support staff all glowing about the opportunity that lies ahead.

Tonight, in the third of a four-game homestand, the Flames welcome the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues to town, and will look to build on Thursday's powerful showing in front of a sold-out crowd, coast-to-coast on Hockey Night in Canada. 

So, why wouldn't you be excited?

No matter how long you've been around the game, no matter how many you've played in, a late affair on the historical twin-bill remains one of the circuit's premiere time slots. 

Everyone gets up for these ones. 

What's different this time, though, is that the excitement started building a bit earlier than usual. 


Video: "Looking forward to the opportunity"


"Started feeling it yesterday," said head coach Bill Peters. "The guys have it. We're home, we've got a little gas in the tank, got a little rest, so I think you're going to see a good hockey game tonight."

The Blues, who are tops in the West (11-3-3) and enter the night on a season-high, six-game winning streak, bring a different brand of hockey than the Flames' previous two opponents. 

Speed, skill and depth are obvious trademarks of a championship-caliber squad, but the backend is where the Blues truly shine. 

The champs have four defencemen at 6-foot-3 or taller, including the 6-foot-6, 230-lb. Alberta native, Colton Parayko. He and captain Alex Pietrangelo (the smallest of the bunch at 6-foot-3, 210) anchor the blueline with a staunch physical presence and plenty of offensive upside.

It's a formidable opponent - the ultimate "measuring stick" as the Flames hit the quarter mark of the 2019-20 campaign. 

"It's a big, heavy (team), so you know it's going to be a physical game, and those are the games that in the past I've had the most fun playing in, so you look forward to the challenge," Lucic said. 

"That was a big part of them winning the Stanley Cup last year - that big, heavy hockey. 

"We want to get our legs going, but we've got to be prepared for that heavy game, too. Get pucks in behind them, put our work boots on and grind in the trenches.

"Can't wait."

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