SUN Hockey Pool

Ample motivation for Flames

STEVE MacFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

Getting back to the Stanley Cup final won't be enough to satisfy the Calgary Flames this season.

A year away gave the team's veterans plenty of time to heal old wounds after losing Game 7 of the final series more than 14 months ago to the Tampa Bay Lightning but captain Jarome Iginla is one of many who will use the heartbreak as motivation when training camp kicks off today.

"When you get that close and you don't get it, it's all you think about," Iginla said yesterday after a gruelling fitness test that left him physically exhausted but upbeat about the start of a new NHL season. And another shot at the Cup.

"I thought Iwas hungry before but you get that close and don't have it, I just want to get back and experience that ride again and win with our group and in this city.

There's just one problem.

During that remarkable playoff run, the Flames were underdogs, surprising teams in every series. This year, they are in the unfamiliar position of being among the favourites to win the Cup.

Defenceman Robyn Regehr considers the role reversal a good thing.

"I don't think the approach -- the way we prepare ourselves -- is any different," said Regehr. "What I think is different is expectations.

"Guys still work hard physically in the summer to come to camp in good shape and be ready for the season. But when you talk to fans and talking to teammates, there's a lot higher expectation I think of oneself and also the team.

"I think that's the major change and it's good to have."

Regehr said valuable lessons were learned during the playoff run, which could pay off during Calgary's belated quest to repeat.

"Hopefully, that (playoff experience) will help us in the regular season because it's going to be very tough. The Northwest Division is going to be a very good division."

Rhett Warrener says the lockout was bittersweet, allowing the Flames to recover both physically and mentally and prepare for what will surely be a difficult season.

Warrener is no stranger to heart-wrenching losses in the Stanley Cup final. He was part of the 1999 Buffalo Sabres team that had its dream squashed at home in triple overtime when Dallas Stars sniper Brett Hull scored a controversial winner from inside the crease.

Being distracted by the year-long work stoppage was a blessing in disguise for the Flames.

"I remember how mentally gruelling it is," said Warrener of his transition from the cusp of a championship to another lengthy regular season. "Physically you can be there but when your brain is still reeling -- it's hard to explain that stuff."

Fans shouldn't worry about a Mighty-Duck-like collapse following an unexpected trip to the Stanley Cup final.

Anaheim piggybacked goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere into the 2003 championship against the New Jersey Devils -- which the Ducks lost in seven games.

Calgary had a hot goaltender, too, the last time a final series was played but that's where the similarities end. Miikka Kiprusoff had a deep supporting cast, which has only improved with the addition of veteran forwards Tony Amonte, Darren McCarty and defenceman Roman Hamrlik.

This team wants more than another playoff run this year, they want to hoist the Cup.

Regehr agrees there's unfinished business.

"We didn't attain the goal of winning the Stanley Cup like we all had. I don't think anyone is satisfied."


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