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VERSTEEG'S EXPERIENCE PAYING OFF

The winger was one of the Flames top players in Game 1

by TORIE PETERSON @ToriePeterson / CalgaryFlames.com

ANAHEIM - Looking back, Kris Versteeg's first foray into adulthood had a direct tie to the team he now plays for.

The Lethbridge native, who spent the bulk of his Western Hockey League career playing for his hometown Hurricanes, was in Calgary in early May to celebrate his 18th birthday.

The Flames were in the midst of their storybook 2004 Stanley Cup run and Versteeg couldn't help but be caught up in the playoff fever sweeping through Southern Alberta.

"It's amazing. I watched the Flames growing up. I was a part of the Red Mile in 2004. I had just turned 18 and had a couple shots to celebrate a Martin Gelinas goal," Versteeg reminisced. "I still kind of remember the whole process and everything - how crazy it was in my hometown and in Calgary in those areas.

"It's really exciting to be a part of this stuff now and being able to play for the team."

Fast-forward 13 years later and Versteeg is pushing to bring that fervor back to Calgary.

A vital part of the Flames push into the postseason, Versteeg was one of Calgary's best players in their opening 3-2 setback to the Anaheim Ducks in Round One of the playoffs. He set up both goals in Game 1, teeing up a tap-in for Sean Monahan on the power play in the first period and Sam Bennett was able to tip in his no-look backhand pass early in the second stanza.

"Steeger has been real valuable for us all year," head coach Glen Gulutzan said. "He's got an edge to his game … he's got good experience and he's a very smart player. He's been excellent for us on the power play. He's added a lot to our team right now.

"This is the time those guys kind of come to the forefront, with the experience they have. Some of the things he said in the meeting prior to the series have already come into effect now. All that stuff has been talked about and put on the table and it's going to help us moving forward."

Versteeg's knowledge will be key for the Flames as they look to even the series in Game 2 on Saturday.

The two-time Stanley Cup champion has more than his fair share of playoff experience and has been more than willing to pass along advice to his younger cohorts, acting as mentor of sorts.

"For years and years, I've been … blessed with playing on some really good teams and being able to be in a lot of good opportunities that had helped me," Versteeg stated. "For now, it's just kind of going back to basics. Try to get back to what makes you successful. The start of series is always an exciting time to be a part of it so that was fun. I've had experience in that before, which helps.

"Just keep doing more of the same. Find our game, though, within the game. Be ready to play next game.

"I think a lot of the guys got some of the crap out of the system and now we can move onto the second game and just be ready to play hockey again."

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