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Flames' Eriksson excited for challenge of staying alive

by Todd Kimberley
CALGARY -- Anders Eriksson has heard all the clichés, but he's got one of his own.

Carpe diem. Seize the day.

"Yeah! Why not?" said the affable veteran defenseman, who was expected to take Dion Phaneuf's place in the Calgary Flames' lineup Monday night (9:30 p.m. ET, TSN) during Game 6 of this Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the visiting Chicago Blackhawks.

"It's a good challenge. We've all been part of being down in any kind of series, whether it's peewee hockey or all the way up to the National Hockey League," added Eriksson following the Flames' morning skate Monday at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
"Coming back is the best feeling ever. We were down 2-0 (in this series), came back, and now we're down 3-2. The crowd is going to help us, and we just need to concentrate on what we need to do."

Phaneuf was involved in a helmet-to-helmet collision with Chicago's Troy Brouwer during the third period of the Blackhawks' 5-1 win at the United Center Saturday. The former Norris Trophy finalist left the ice immediately, and did not participate in Monday's morning skate.

Flames coach Mike Keenan confirmed that the fourth-year defenseman would not play Monday night: "No, he will not ... he's not available. And his status is day to day."

Phaneuf, much maligned during the regular season for his erratic play, had been rock-steady for Calgary through the first five games of this series, with three assists and a plus-2 rating.

Eriksson, a Stanley Cup winner in Detroit, spent the 2008-09 season in Moline, Ill., playing for the AHL's Quad Cities Flames. He was summoned by the parent club April 14, and was expected to make his second appearance Monday of these Stanley Cup Playoffs, with the Flames in desperate need of a win before the "C" of Red to set up a Game 7.

The 34-year-old Swede played 22 minutes, 44 seconds of Game 1 in Chicago on April 16, with Cory Sarich still on the mend with a foot injury.

"I'm ready to go. I'm excited to go," said Eriksson, who's made 35 career appearances in Stanley Cup Playoffs. "I've been around long enough that I've just got to go in there and play my game, not try to do too much or too little, try and help the team as best I can."

Even with his early exit on Saturday, Phaneuf still leads the Flames in this series with 24:48 worth of ice per game.
Sarich played nearly 25 minutes himself on Saturday, but knows he and the Calgary defense corps will be shouldering a bigger load.

"(Ice-time distribution) is going to get spread out. We'll have to take on a little bit more. That's a big hole to fill," said Sarich, who'd played 56 career playoff games prior to Monday. "But we're looking forward to it. Guys are excited about playing some hockey tonight."

The Flames, who are facing an elimination game for the fifth time since their trip to the 2004 Stanley Cup Final, skated in virtual silence Monday morning. Sarich chalked that up to concentration.

"It's just focus. I don't think there was enough of it last game," said the 30-year-old from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. "You can rah-rah out there when you're having fun, but right now we've got to win a game.

"It all comes down to hard work. You can have all the talent in the world, but unless you're givin' 'er out there, you're not going to get the job done. You simply have to outwork the other club."
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