Trip down memory pain

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

The last time the Calgary Flames found their way to San Jose, it was a disastrous trek.

For those needing a refresher, it would be the disappointing seventh-game loss last spring to the Sharks that ended their Stanley Cup playoff hopes in the opening round.

Tonight, when the Flames face the Sharks in Silicon Valley, they get a chance at revenge.

They have the opportunity to use the disappointment and make the Sharks feel some of their pain.

Sure sounds like the perfect motivation for the Flames, doesn't it?

True, admitted Calgary captain Jarome Iginla, but only to a point.

"The rivalry naturally grows when you play a team that many times in a year and then they put you out. You never forget that stuff, no matter how much time passes," he said. "Anaheim or Detroit (the teams that have extinguished the Flames the previous two playoffs) you always remember that.

"At the same time, though, it's a new year, and our position will be to continue what we're doing, to build."

Calgary (9-7-1) is heading into San Jose coming off a victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Sharks currently boast the NHL's best record (13-3-1), even though they've lost their last two outings.

"They're rolling," said Iginla. "It's a good challenge for us. We know it's going to be a hard game, so I think the bigger thing is to keep our winning going."

True, beating the middling Maple Leafs is something to build upon, being only their second victory in their last six outings.

Then again, the win came with its share of tough moments, just like the Flames' only other victory in the past half-dozen clashes. Against Toronto, Calgary was up by three with six minutes remaining yet ended up clinging to the win in the final moments because Toronto surged and drew within one with 54 seconds remaining thanks to an own-goal -- Craig Conroy's faceoff win was deflected by Dion Phaneuf and past Miikka Kiprusoff.

"It was fluky, it really was," Iginla said. "I don't think we were hanging on at all.

"They were able to get more powerplays in the third period, so their shots were up, and they play hard and compete right to the end. I don't think we had any breakdowns at the end. We were still playing hard, playing the same way. We were strong in the late play."

Calgary will need to be strong tonight. We're talking about a San Jose club that's boasting a fantastic record because it's dominating teams by controlling the puck and outshooting them by a wide margin.

The Sharks are averaging 38.2 shots on goal per game -- tops in the NHL -- and always seem to come out gangbusters in the opening period.

Flames defenders, and especially Kiprusoff, best be bracing for the pending onslaught as soon as the puck drops.

"It's going to be interesting," said Kiprusoff, who was pulled in that Game 7 loss for Curtis Joseph in what proved a very controversial move by coach Mike Keenan.

"It's a big challenge for a goalie to control those rebounds or try to put them in the corner.

"We all know they've been so strong early this year. It's going to be a tough game. We have to bring out best game."


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