Rhett wants happy ending

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:40 PM ET


 Perhaps he's the Cinderella Fella -- the source of fairy-tale magic for the upstart Calgary Flames in these 2004 NHL playoffs.

 The glass slipper certainly fits Rhett Warrener.

 The veteran defenceman already has been a part of two surprise runs to the Stanley Cup final with the Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres.

 And now he's an integral piece of the Flames' fantastic hockey story this spring.

 "I hope it's not just because of me because I haven't won it yet," said Warrener, whose Panthers were beaten by the Colorado Avalanche in 1996 and whose Buffalo Sabres fell to the Dallas Stars in 1999.

 "I lose a lot of sleep over (not having won the Stanley Cup). You only get so many kicks at the cat."

 His third kick begins Tuesday with the Flames facing either the Philadelphia Flyers or Tampa Bay Lightning.

 And after twice losing out in the final, Warrener refuses to take for granted this particular chase for the chalice.

 "It's an experience -- it's nice to get there again," said the 28-year-old Warrener.

 "But this just gives us a ticket to play for it. It gets us to where we want to be. Now it's a matter of really bearing down and focusing on this next series."

 Not that the Flames have had difficulty with focus. After all, work ethic has been the backbone of their success throughout the regular season and post-season.

 It's a trait that had Warrener believing in the Flames since he first stepped on the ice with his new teammates in September.

 "From Day One of training camp, I knew it was going to be a hard-working team," said Warrener, who joined the Flames along with Steve Reinprecht in an off-season trade from the Sabres.

 "I knew how dedicated these guys were at working hard and how the coaches gave us a system and demanded the most out of everyone. If you get a coach and players who demand the most out of the whole room every night, I'm not surprised at having success. Any time you have that, you've got a chance."

 And any time a team has Warrener, it seems its chance of making the Cup final is 100%, at least in his first season with a team.

 Just as it's been here in his inaugural season with the Flames, the Panthers and Sabres earned respective berths in the championship round during the Saskatchewan native's first seasons in South Florida and Buffalo. That's more of his magic working for the Flames.

 "You can look at the interview I did the first day I got traded here," Warrener said.

 "I said, 'That's where we're going,' and I pointed at the (Stanley Cup plaque outside the Flames dressing room). I believe you can get there with any team. It's the team coming together and everyone playing up to their potential. Hockey's too much a team sport. That's why you see more teams with talent not winning games and teams with less talent moving on.

 "The first time with Florida, it was a bit of a shocker, I think, for everyone in hockey. In Buffalo, we had an amazing goaltender (in Dominik Hasek) and some great players who got traded there that knew we might have a chance. This time's a little different."

 This time, Warrener hopes, it leads to the fairy-tale ending, too.


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