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FLAMES-DUCKS SERIES A BACK-AND-FORTH AFFAIR

Calgary is looking to swing momentum in Game 2

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

ANAHEIM - Among the most unlikely "I say, any of you chaps up for a spot of tennis?" all-in-Wimbledon-white type of guys, Randy Carlyle would rank right up there.

Still, the old-school boss of the Anaheim Ducks was channeling his inner Bud Collins when asked the other day about the dynamics of having, and clinging tight to, home-ice advantage:

"It's like holding serve in tennis."

Thursday, his Anaheim Ducks fought off a couple of tough break points to do just that.

What's required from the guys across the net, the Calgary Flames, then, is an immediate, Roger Federer-precise, laser-like return on the next serve; a stinging forehand winner that breathlessly caresses the line deep in a corner.

Bringing us to deuce heading back to the Scotiabank Saddledome.

As well as a long-overdue end to this tiresome 'Who's your daddy?' dominance the Ducks have exacted at the Honda Center.

"Any time you don't open on the road in the playoffs, the best-case scenario is winning them both, obviously,'' said Flames' defenceman Matt Bartowski.

"But if we a get a split … that's great.

"That's what everybody's after.

"Two's a bonus. A split puts it back in our hands in terms of home ice.

"We can still do that.

"The good news is we've got more. We know that. To a man. As a team. Everybody knows that. We really don't have to change much. We just have to give … more.

"That's it."

Miffed at themselves for allowing a solid 5-on-5 performance to be undermined by a torrent of minor infractions, the Flames are eager to move forward with the series.

"A lot of the guys,'' reasoned winger Kris Versteeg, " maybe got some of the crap out of the system. Now we can move on to the second game and be ready just to play hockey again."

Video: With a few changes the Flames can win Game 2

What must the Flames improve on?

Well, be sharper than 37% in the face-off circle. Execute lines changes with a tad more vigour. Rein in the silly penalties. And find some way to rein in the top Duck, Ryan Getzlaf, absolutely extraordinary throughout the opener.

"It starts with our discipline,'' responded Mikael Backlund, the man conscripted to play a high-stakes game of me-and-my-shadow with Anaheim's massively-influential captain. "If he gets powerplay time he's going to feed off that.

"Right off the start we're going to have to make it hard on him, tough minutes.

"Our line wasn't good enough. We've got to be way better. Personally, and as a line, we've got to be better."

Such is the immediacy of the playoff beast that one win has everyone on the outside preparing floats for a Macy's Thanksgiving-style parade, one loss and the end of the world is nigh. 

"You were there in Calgary all year. There was some heavy panic (there) in Game 2,'' recalled coach Glen Gulutzan with a small smile.

"They just kind of found their way through it. I like the way our mindset is right now. You can't have truth growth without adversity. We've had true growth within our group.

"We hit a little patch here to get the win last night. But we'll keep moving forward. We're going to continue to do that.

"We're positive. We're upbeat. We're excited for Game 2."

The most painful mistakes, easy to identify, are, they're convinced, correctible.

"I think everyone in the room believes we can win,'' said Versteeg, outstanding with a pair of assists Thursday. "That's what you want going into a series.

"To go home with a split would be huge.

"It was the first playoff game for a lot guys on our team for a long time. But now we can settle in and just play hockey for Game 2.

"It's a seven-game series for a reason so you've got to move on quickly, even if you win."

As they approach the Game 2, a hugely important fixture for the visitors both literally and psychologically, the Ducks - to continue with Randy Carlyle's tennis theme - still hold serve.

Nothing that a stinging forehand winner from the Flames to break back wouldn't cure.

"I think, to a man,'' offered Elliott, "we could say we have another level to go to.

"And that's the great thing from our perspective."

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