Lightnin' the load

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 10:58 AM ET

Ask the remaining members of the Calgary Flames who made it to Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup final if they still cringe when they reflect on the outcome and the mild change in their expressions is obvious.

It's as apparent as the sting that lingers from being so close to the ultimate prize but falling one win short.

Grimaces are giveaways and the answers are as candid as you'll get in professional sports.

It's a timely question with the Tampa Bay Lightning returning to Calgary tonight for the first time since the Flames had a chance to clinch the Cup on home ice in Game 6 -- many thought they did exactly that on Martin Gelinas' much-reviewed non-goal.

They then had a full 14 months to let it permeate their brains thanks to the lockout.

"It just pops in there laying in bed at night, thinking about 'what if,' " said defenceman Rhett Warrener, possibly a little tongue in cheek to mask the seriousness of his statement. "Yeah, I still think about it. You don't enjoy thinking about it but you think about it.

"I try not to. That's the objective."

Warrener, Jarome Iginla, Robyn Regehr, Stephane Yelle, Marcus Nilson, Craig Conroy and Miikka Kiprusoff are the only current Flames who played in the deciding game against the Lightning almost three years ago.

All seven suffer varying degrees of pain when they think back to that night in Tampa as the Bolts claimed the Cup with a 2-1 victory. They'll try to push back those feelings when they take the ice against the Lightning tonight.

"Playing Tampa definitely brings it back," said Conroy, who signed with the L.A. Kings prior to the lockout before being reacquired this season. "Coming back to Calgary, people still talk about it.

"Pretty painful when you look back at it and think how close were and that maybe we won in Game 6. Of course everybody in Calgary thinks we won and I think we won ... but to let it get away from us is such a disappointment."

Iginla, who elevated his game with monster performances in those playoffs, still can't shake the topic.

"Just the other day we were talking about the different series and how tough they were," Iginla said. "It still stings when you really think how close we were and what it would have felt like. Having to hear them celebrate. How that flight (home) was terrible and it could have been us.

"I don't dwell on it. I'm not bitter or anything, just hungrier. The thing that will make it better is actually winning one. I'd rather lose and then win as opposed to win then lose so we've just got to finish the back part of it because I think we'll appreciate it more."

Yelle isn't so sure Iginla's belief is true. Yelle won twice with Colorado and knows the feeling of raising the Cup over his head. The veteran is doing his best to look forward and takes the glass-half-full approach to the game.

"I'm a pretty optimistic person. Hopefully we'll get another chance," Yelle said.

Stone-faced netminder Kiprusoff shares Yelle's faith it will not be his last opportunity.

"I would not play if I thought that," said Kiprusoff. "I signed a long-term deal here because I believed this team would have a chance."

Regehr is also hopeful for a shot at redemption.

"That's why you really want to take advantage of it, because you've got to make all kinds of sacrifices -- guys getting injured along the way, all the hard playoff hockey you play," said Regehr.

POSSIBLE SUSPENSION

Robyn Regehr could face a one-game suspension after being handed an instigator penalty late in the Nashville game, though GM Darryl Sutter wants the league to rescind the extra penalty, said coach Jim Playfair.

"When you look at it, it's not the call," Playfair said. "It's not the instigator call. They were both pushing and shoving. We'll see."

If the league upholds the ruling, Playfair faces a $10,000 fine.


Videos

Photos