Afternoon delight

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

CHICAGO -- Funny how a win can change the outlook over playing afternoon hockey.

Hockey players, creatures of habit that they are, tend to dislike matinee affairs.

In the hoopla after dropping the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 yesterday, the Calgary Flames were singing a somewhat different tune.

"You know what? They feel a lot better when you win," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. "I'm not just saying that, you get the whole day to think about it and enjoy it longer. When it's a night game, you just go to bed soon after. With an afternoon game, you get to enjoy it.

"I probably like evening ones better but it is a nice change once in a while. It's kinda like when you're younger, playing on Saturday afternoons, Sunday afternoons."

It's a rarity for the Flames to play in the afternoon. The only other matinee this season was also in Chicago, a late-January tilt that saw the Blackhawks skate away with a 4-3 OT win.

"When they're done, I love 'em," Flames defenceman Rhett Warrener said. "I'm indifferent. I don't hate them but I often find they're a little harder getting going in the first period."

Which may explain the opening 20 minutes for the Flames. They came out with a great first shift from the trio of Stephane Yelle, Marcus Nilson and Jeff Friesen and even opened the scoring a little more than a couple of minutes into the affair but after that it was the Blackhawks that took control and a 2-1 lead before the first intermission.

If it hadn't been for a powerplay in which the Flames sent a half-dozen shots at Chicago goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, the edge would have been downright glaring. Iginla refused to pin his team's performance on playing while the sun was high in the sky.

"It was an afternoon game for both teams. Maybe they play more of them than we do but we were aware they come out hard in the first period," he explained.


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