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LAZAR, HAMILTON IN LINEUP

Duo draw in for Game 4, Elliott will get start in net

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

There's an infectious optimism about Curtis Lazar that's almost tangible, like a wave of heat coming off a backyard cooker.

His grin is more permanent than Heath Ledger's Joker make-up in The Dark Knight Rises. In terms of positivity, this guy makes the Up With People vocal group seem down.

"I feel like I've been playing every game,'' said Lazar on Wednesday morning, knowing his chance at post-season had arrived.

 "Just sitting in the room, emotionally into it, just watching on TV.

"You care so much.

"You're playing for keeps. This is the best time of year."

So far, Lazar's 2017 post-season has been "take warm-up, try to sell a couple extra tickets, flash that smile,'' he joked.

"Honestly, just hang out. You get a workout in and whatnot. It's a good teaching point. Some guys like to go up above and watch from the press box.

"I more hang out in the dressing room here, lay on the couch, sit back. There's lot of nail-biting, a lot of pacing back and forth, the odd curse word here or there.

"But that's all part of it."

So Lazar and Freddie Hamilton draw in for tonight's must-have Game 4 at the Scotiabank Saddleome, in place of Matt Stajan and Lance Bouma.

Brian Elliott starts his fourth game in goal, in spite of conjecture the Flames might throw a change-up at the Anaheim Ducks and switch to Chad Johnson.

Skipper Mark Giordano wants the odd-men-out to realize the moves are situational rather the reflective of quality of play.

"Whenever things like this happens … this is just a case of getting fresh legs, fresh bodies in there. Staje and Boums have been great for us all year.

"They know that.

"I've been a healthy scratch earlier in my career, lots of times. The feeling, I'm sure, never changes. It's hard to explain. You want to be a part of it. When you're not playing there's nothing you can do physical to help the team, so it's hard.

"Real hard."

Hamilton says the key to his and Lazar making a contribution is not to show at the rink wearing long, fake white beards, toting a staff and a prop-store tablet of 10 Commandments.

No Moses impersonations required here.

"It's not on us to change up the series,'' he insisted. "Our team's played well the first three games. We could've won all three. Just a couple weird bounces, weird calls.

"We can provide some energy, and try to get the rest of the guys positive and going."

What the two are expected to do is a rollicking

"Every morning you wake up, hopefully the sun comes up,'' said Lazar. "It's a new day. Regardless of whether it's a win or a loss.

"We're not down in here. It does take four games to win a series.

"I've waited for this opportunity for some time now. There's nothing like playoff hockey.

"Taking baby steps is how you build momentum. As we've seen in playoffs, momentum is a dangerous thing.

"Once you get rolling, you're hard to stop.

"I can't try and over-complicate things out there. Play a north-south game and have some fun.

"I'm not going to re-invent the wheel out there. I'm just going to play my game. The big thing with playoff hockey is a lot of guys try to over-complicate things, do too much.

"Just be yourself."

The Flames are banking on that sense of fresh ambition, an injection of bling and bang, to help them send this series back to Anaheim and plant a seed of doubt into the minds of the Ducks.

"It's an energy thing,'' explained coach Glen Gulutzan. "We're down three. These are two players that've played pretty well in the games they've come in, provided energy, speed. With Curtis, right shots for draws.

"Also it's two guys who are not down 3-0 in the series. They're trying to stay in the lineup each and every night."

And for those too down about the hole that seems the size of the Grand Canyon, Hamilton has a word of cautious optimism.

"I was an extra with San Jose when they blew the 3-0 against L.A. So while I didn't actually get to play I did experience the whole thing.

"It's a reminder:

"It can happen."

 

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