Nieds lauds old 'mates

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 5:29 PM ET


 Rob Niedermayer had his eye on the Stanley Cup playoffs while helping Canada win gold at the world hockey championship.

 So he's well aware of the Calgary Flames' run through the post-season so far, which virtually mirrors his Anaheim Mighty Ducks near-miracle last season, when the upstart club took eventual champion New Jersey to seven games in the final.

 "I don't think anyone expected us to do what we did last year and they're in the same boat and Darryl has them playing some great hockey," said Niedermayer, 30, a former Flame who travelled through Calgary yesterday on his way home to Cranbrook, B.C., from Prague, where the world championship was held.

 "I had a chance, actually, to watch some of the Vancouver/Calgary series before I went over and that team's playing great.

 "They have everybody going and they're a tough team to play against."

 While in Prague, officials created a daily NHL playoff update with game summaries for the players, which Niedermayer read every day.

 Like Anaheim last year, Calgary went into the playoffs as an unheralded team, not given much of a chance to go far. But the club has really gotten on the same page and received outstanding goaltending from Miikka Kiprusoff, something the Ducks got from J-S Giguere in 2002-03.

 And then there's the Jarome Iginla factor.

 "Any time you've got a guy like Iggy, I mean he's a special player and he's leading that team right now," said Niedermayer, who was traded to the Ducks at the March 2003 deadline for defenceman Mike Commodore and goaltender Jean-Francois Damphousse.

 Iginla's elevated his game to a new level in the post-season, something that doesn't surprise his former teammate.

 "He's such a complete player. He's got every aspect -- if you want to play physical against him, he'll play physical against you, if you want to play finesse, he'll play the same way," said Niedermayer, who toiled in 111 games with the Flames.

 "He's made for playoff hockey."

 When Niedermayer was acquired by the Flames in June 2001 from Florida and stepped onto the ice with Iginla, he quickly realized how good No. 12 was.

 And with Calgary making it to the Western Conference final, the rest of North America is finding out just how good Iginla is on the ice.

 Niedermayer was asked if he thinks Calgary can roast the Sharks and get into the Stanley Cup final.

 "I haven't seen either team play for a while, but yeah, they have a chance. They've got great goaltending and it seems like every line's playing well, so it's going to be a heck of a series."


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