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Seven-game segments help prime Flames for playoffs

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

It’ll help us big time. We’ve had that mindset now. No matter the outcome of the game and whatnot I think we’ll be able to reset and be like, ‘okay, we’re 1-0 or 0-1 in the segment’ and focus on the next game at hand. It’ll definitely play into our advantage.Josh Jooris

CALGARY, AB -- The Calgary Flames are amongst the most inexperienced teams set to compete for Lord Stanley’s Cup in 2015.

They’re no strangers to playing a seven-game series, though.

The Flames have already skated through 11 of them this season.

Guided by coach Bob Hartley, Calgary divvied up their schedule into 11 seven-game segments, plus a bonus five-game set, to help imitate the exact playoff scenario the Flames now find themselves in.

“It’ll help us big time,” said rookie forward Josh Jooris, who will get his first professional playoff experience under his belt when Calgary begins the challenge of facing the Vancouver Canucks in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday.

“We’ve had that mindset now. No matter the outcome of the game and whatnot I think we’ll be able to reset and be like, ‘okay, we’re 1-0 or 0-1 in the segment’ and focus on the next game at hand. It’ll definitely play into our advantage.”

It’ll have to.

With a roster that features a total of 473 games of playoff experience and 10 skaters who have yet to see postseason action in their career, many Flames will have only Hartley’s simulated system.

And those segments have helped replicate the structure.

So too did the chase to get into the playoffs in the first place, one that heightened after the Flames went winless through their fifth segment of the season, an 0-6-1 stretch as part of an eight-game losing streak that had many predicting Calgary -- 17-9-2 before the slump -- would finally hit the skids and fall out of contention before Christmas.

But they didn’t.

“Ever since that eight-game losing streak we’ve been playing playoff hockey,” defenceman Kris Russell said. “I think we’re ready for it. Obviously the tempo is going to go up and the atmosphere is going to be a lot bigger, the stage is bigger. I think we’ve got a lot of guys excited for that opportunity and are ready for it.

“We’ve been playing playoff hockey since that eight-game losing streak. I feel like we’re a team that when our backs are against the wall we’re at our best. We’ve got to continue that. We know we have a tough challenge in Vancouver.

“At the same time we believe in ourselves.”

There’s good cause for that.

The Flames rebounded from eight consecutive losses to go 28-15-4 through the remaining seven segments to close out the regular season and earn their way into the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Hartley’s tactic, for the record, saw Calgary win 10 of 12 segments overall and tie another.

That single blemish came in December.

“I really like the seven-game segments,” Hartley said. “That five-game segment was a tough one. But at the same time, now here we go again. We know how seven-game segments work. That’s what we’re starting. I have the utmost confidence in our guys. Great bunch of guys, guys who work, we’re a resilient group.

“We never stopped and we believe in ourselves and that’s what counts.”

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