Marleau a formidable foe

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:50 AM ET

 Patrick Marleau likes to say the best part about growing up in the tiny village of Aneroid, Sask., was being able to skate anytime.

 With seven goals and three assists through 11 playoff games, the shifty Sharks centre has been doing plenty of freewheeling in open ice during the Stanley Cup playoffs, too.

  And it's that pond hockey mentality the Calgary Flames would like to clamp down on when the puck drops in their Western Conference final this afternoon.

 "He's a good player, he's really turned it up but we can't concentrate on one guy," suggests Flames defenceman Jordan Leopold, usually sent over the boards with defensive partner Robyn Regehr to stifle opposing snipers.

 "(The Sharks) are a team that has a lot of potential to be good (offensively) and they're going to be good.

 "We have to be good as well, match their intensity and their tenacity.

 "It's going to be a matter of wills and who wants it more."

 Marleau's linemate, veteran Vincent Damphousse, has proven a handful, too, netting five goals while climbing among the playoffs points leaders by adding six assists. They have five powerplay goals between them.

 "It is going to be tough and you have guys who can score on their top three lines -- pretty good goalscorers on all three of them," explains Regehr, noting Niko Dimitrakos and Jonathan Cheechoo are other Sharks known to draw blood.

 "We have to make sure we're doing our jobs defensively as a team. You can't just rely on maybe one pair of defencemen to be going or maybe one checking line, you have to be doing a great job as a team to be able to shut those guys down.

 "What we have to focus on is ourselves," he added.

 "What we have to do is be at the top of our game and if we have that, we'll be just fine."

 The Flames certainly have proven that ability against the high-flying Red Wings, holding Detroit to just 12 goals in six games by employing a strong forecheck while remaining confident the last line of defence -- goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff -- would shut the door.

 But it's the slick-footed, sure-handed Marleau who could pose the greatest concern for the Flames.

 His best game against Calgary this season was a two-goal effort in a 4-1 Sharks' win back in January, although he was held off the scoresheet in three other contests.

 "I have a lot of respect for Marleau," offers Flames centre Jarome Iginla, a one-time Kamloops Blazer who saw plenty of Marleau in a Seattle Thunderbirds uniform.

 "I played against him in junior and he was great at a young age in junior, a couple years younger than me, but he's guy who's quick and big and has a lot of strength and a good goalscoring touch.

 "He's going to be one of the guys we try to (stop) and we have to shut down but he's had a great playoffs already."


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