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Flames clinch playoff date with Detroit

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames
by Aaron Vickers

Call it a date with Detroit.

Despite losing to the provincial rival Edmonton Oilers 3-2 Saturday night, the Calgary Flames have clinched a spot in the 2007 Stanley Cup playoffs.

The berth comes on the strength of a Nashville Predators victory over the Colorado Avalanche. The Predators handed the Avalanche a 4-2 defeat, ending their quest for any postseason activity.

Although they would''ve liked to do it on the strength of a victory, the Flames are happy to be in the postseason for the third time in as many seasons.

"It''s always nice to make the playoffs, but it''d sure feel a lot better to win and feel good about the win and about being in the playoffs," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla.

With the victory, the Flames will travel to Detroit for games'' one and two against the Detroit Red Wings, who finished first in the Western Conference with 113 points.

"It could be great," Calgary centre Craig Conroy said of the match-up. "They''ve got a great team and it''s always fun to play Detroit. We''ve got some skill, they''ve got some skill. It''s going to be a fun series."

"It''s not going to be an easy task but that''s what the playoffs are all about – going in there and proving yourself and working hard and trying to get these wins," he added.

"We have a lot of respect for them," Iginla said. "They battled for the President''s (trophy). We''ve had some good games with them. They''re a very skilled team and big on puck control."

The two clubs split the season series, with the Flames'' recording a win in the final meeting on March 20. Both teams scored 12 goals in the series.

"It''s pretty even as far as regular season, but I mean, you can kind of throw that out the window," Conroy said.

The teams are certainly no strangers to each other when it comes to meeting in the postseason. It was the then sixth-seeded Flames who met the top-ranked Red Wings in the second round of the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Calgary dispatched Detroit in six games before moving on to the San Jose Sharks and eventually a trip to the Cup finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Flames were able to find success against the Red Wings three seasons ago on the strength of a stellar goaltending performance from Miikka Kiprusoff.

In 2004, it was Kiprusoff who out-dueled then Red Wings netminder Curtis Joseph, posting a 1.73 goals against average and .941 save percentage in the series en route to ousting the perennial cup contenders.

"We had a good series with them a few years ago," Iginla recalled. "It was tight. The games were 1-0, 2-1. It was unbelievable goaltending. I would expect the same with two of the best goalies in the league."

The Flames will rely once again on the same goaltending heroics of Kiprusoff, hoping to duplicate their ''04 success against Detroit. Kiprusoff''s foe this round – future hall of famer Dominik Hasek.

"Kiprusoff I feel is, if not better, just as good," Conroy said. "You have Kipper and Dom and the rest is going to play out."

It won''t unfold without a little bit of hard work from the red and gold, though.

"You have to go in there and work hard and get one of those first two games," Conroy said. "That''s really the focus. That''s what we talked about in ''04. They had a great team and they still got a great team. We''ve got to rise to the occasion."

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