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Flames quite content being underdogs

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames aren't concerned that they're the underdogs going into the first round of the post season against the rugged Detroit Red Wings. In fact, they're looking to use it to their advantage.

by Miranda Baker

Kristian Huselius isn't worried.

As far as he's concerned the season starts now, and it doesn't matter if a team clinched the final spot in the playoffs or fought their way to the top.

Nor does it matter who did what in the regular season. All the Calgary Flames forward cares about is who's going to contribute now. Who's going to work hard now, and who's going to reach their potential.

In his eyes, that's the boys that don the 'Flaming C', and he hopes to prove it starting Thursday when the Calgary Flames first round best-of-seven series kicks off against the determined Detroit Red Wings (5 p.m. The Fan 960 and CBC).

"I think that all eight teams making the playoffs are good teams," said Huselius who put up career numbers on the left wing this season with 34 goals and 77 points.

"So it comes down to who works harder and plays hard every night."

The odds may not be in the Flames favour, but that doesn't in the least concern the team as they embark on what looks to be a memorable match-up with the top seed in the Western Conference.

If fact, a number of players say they're happy being the underdogs going into Round 1 of the playoffs. There's no set bar for them, and they can prove themselves as they go along, game by game.

"We're the eighth seed; they're the number one seed, and they have home ice, so we're definitely the underdogs," commented Craig Conroy. "But I think it's a good position for our team; I think we like being the underdogs."

And he's not the only one. Gritty forward Darren McCarty, who played in Detroit for 11 seasons, winning the Stanley Cup with them in '97, '98 and 2002, believes a good game plan is exactly what the team needs going in.

According to McCarty, if they play the 'Flames hockey' they're known for, they shouldn't have any problem shutting the Red Wings down.

"I think everyone looks at us as underdogs, but I think we match up well against them if we play our game," said McCarty.

"We know what we have to do and how special a lot of their players are, but if we come with a consistent 60 minutes every game, we can get it done."

Although 17 points separated Calgary from Detroit in the regular season, the stats show the two rivals match up fairly well.

The Red Wings finished the season with 66 points at home, where Calgary had 62.Calgary led the league in home wins with 30, followed closely by Detroit with 29.

They also split the season series, winning two games each, with their last game ending in the Flames' favour after a 2-1 win at the Pengrowth Saddledome back on March 20.

And as far as individual leaders are concerned, the Flames are right up there with the Red Wings. Flames captain Jarome Iginla had 39 goals this season, where Henrik Zetterberg tallied 33.

Pavel Datsyuk recorded 60 helpers, only one more than Alex Tanguay. But Iginla also beat Datsyuk in terms of points this season after recording 94, compared to Datsyuk's 87.

"It's not like the Detroit's of old, where they kind of just ran away with it and could get any player they wanted," added Conroy.

"Now it's a pretty even playing field, so you feel pretty comfortable whether you're first seed or eighth seed."

According to Conroy, anything can happen, so the Flames need to go out there and play their game. The rest will fall into place.

Flames' head coach Jim Playfair agrees.

"When the puck drops, it's two teams that are equal that have to try and out compete the opposition," said Playfair.

"We are the underdogs. We know that and they (Detroit) know that they're expected to win, and that's just the way it goes."


The Series Schedule

Thu, April 12 5:00 p.m.
at Detroit (VERSUS, CBC)
Sun, April 15 11:00 a.m.
at Detroit (NBC, CBC)
Tue, April 17 8:00 p.m.
at Calgary (CBC, VERSUS)
Thu, April 19 8:00 p.m.
at Calgary (CBC, VERSUS)
*Sat, April 21 1:00 p.m.
at Detroit (NBC, CBC)
*Sun, April 22 TBD
at Calgary (CBC, VERSUS)
*Tue, April 24 TBD
at Detroit (CBC, VERSUS)
*if necessary
-- All times Mountain

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