CALGARY, AB -- Mark the calendar. The date is set.
The Calgary Flames will open the Western Conference Second Round best-of-7 series against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on Thursday.
“We’ve been waiting for the announcement and we’re excited for it. We’ll leave tomorrow. It’s a fun time to still be playing and we’ve got a big challenge, but we are excited for it,” Flames defenceman Kris Russell said.
“It’s a fun time of year to be playing. When we get an opportunity to play a team like this in the second round, we’ve got to be ready.”
Calgary will open in Anaheim with Game 1 on Thursday and Game 2 on Sunday. Both skates are scheduled for 8 p.m. MT (Sportsnet, SN960).
Two scenarios exist for Games 3. If the Detroit Red Wings beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round series, the Flames will host the Ducks on Wednesday, May 6. Should the Lightning win Wednesday, the Flames will play Tuesday, May 5.
Game 4 is scheduled at Scotiabank Saddledome for Friday, May 8.
Thursday's start date will give the Flames four full days off after dispatching of the Vancouver Canucks in six games on Saturday. The Ducks, who swept the Winnipeg Jets in their opening series, have been off since Wednesday and will enjoy a full week of recovery before the puck drops on the series with the Flames.
“I think both teams are playing the same schedule, so I don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” Flames forward Joe Colborne said. “If anything, it’ll hopefully help us since we had to play a few extra games than they did. Obviously having the two days off, those were nice. It’s going to be a physical series, so any extra rest you can get, we’ll gladly take.”
Jonas Hiller, who started all six games against Vancouver and posted a 3-2 record with a 2.20 GAA and .931 save percentage, welcomed the rest that his squad was able to get in dispatching of the Canucks in six games.
Eliminating some travel, Hiller suggested, has helped his team.
“At this point it was nice to get a little break rather than playing Game 7 and flying,” he said. “Travel is definitely something that’s not easy on your body too. It gives some times to heal some bruises and have some time to rest. Sure, it might be tough to get going again, but the Ducks had a longer break than us, so hopefully that works in our advantage.
“I gladly take the rest. It was a tough series playing every second day. You definitely notice that you’re not getting fresher as the series goes on. It was kind of nice and I am already getting focused for Thursday night’s game.”
Four full days of rest is enough, according to Calgary coach Bob Hartley.
“We’ve had plenty,” he said. “You look at our practice today and we still rested a few guys. Everyone is ready to go. We know at 99.9 (percent) whose going to be in our lineup on Thursday night. Now it’s great. We know where we’re going. The fans know when the game will be played. We’re all good.”
The rest has been key to revitalizing the Flames, and especially the Flames’ top trio on defence.
TJ Brodie led Calgary in averaging 27:10 in ice time in six games against the Canucks. Russell clocked in at 27:06, while partner Dennis Wideman had 26:59. Those figures rank in the top-10 as the opening round gets set to close on Wednesday.
Having a few days extra to regroup helps, Russell admitted.
“I think in any playoff series if you can get some time off or days in between and get some extra rest and fuel up a little bit, it’s good,” he said. “With that, we’ve got to make sure that we are sharp. Tomorrow is going to be a big practice day and then the game."
But how much is too much?
“When you win, everything is good. When you lose, you didn’t get enough, you got too much,” Hartley said. “Hey, it’s playoff hockey. We got some days off, which were needed. What’s the ideal number of days? I think that the answer can vary through the people you’re going to ask but at the same time, we know that we’re in the second round and that’s what matters the most.”
The figure, Russell admitted, is irrelevant.
“At the end of the day, when the puck drops and it’s game time, you’ve got to make sure that ready to go regardless of how many days that you have in between,” he said. “Once this series starts, it’s going to be a different game against them. They play a little bit of a heavier game than the Canucks do. The Canucks are more puck possession. They are a good team. Obviously they showed it by sweeping a good team in Winnipeg. Regardless of the rest or how many days in between, we need to be ready.”
NOTES: The Flames held their first full practice Tuesday since eliminating Vancouver…A few, such as Russell and Jiri Hudler, were given additional rest…Calgary will practice at home Wednesday before departing for Anaheim.