Playin' like a real champ

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:48 PM ET

 These aren't the Saint John Flames. They're the Calgary Flames.

 But don't tell that to Chris Clark, who's living the 2001 championship run all over again. Sort of.

  "Oh yeah, that's the only real playoff experience I've had," said Clark, recalling the 19-game march to the Calder Cup with the Flames' defunct AHL affiliate.

 "So that's all I really had to compare anything to. It's just as much a battle because guys want it just as much down there in the AHL as they do up here. So you know, because of that, what it's going to take."

 OK, so it wasn't quite a run to the Stanley Cup. Even Clark will acknowledge that.

 But there are similarities.

 And with the big-league Flames missing the playoffs in his four years he's been with the organization, the Connecticut native also knew exactly what to expect before making his NHL playoff debut.

 "Watching enough before I played one -- and I've probably watched hundreds of games -- I knew it was going to be a battle," Clark said.

 "And it's lived up to everything that way."

 Clark included.

 In fact, the gritty right-winger is right up there among the top performing Flames in these playoffs. His five points slot him fifth-best on the club and the offensive contribution says nothing about his defensive and penalty-killing efforts through the first two rounds of the post-season.

 In particular, Clark clicked with four of his five points in the first round against the Vancouver Canucks. He collected an assist on Stephane Yelle's game-winner and then scored the club's second goal in Game 4's

 4-0 shutout of the visiting Canucks.

 "My shots happened to go in at those points and some of them happened to be bigger than other goals, I guess," Clark said.

 "I'm just chipping along and some of them go in and some of them don't. I just want to keep doing it.

 "It's the same as I've fit in all year -- just plugging along, being there and helping out the team. Not as a hero but someone who's there all the time and someone who can be counted on all the time."

 Although Clark registered just one assist in Round 2 against the Detroit Red Wings, the Flames counted on him to continue with his outstanding play.

 Which he provided in typical lunch-bucket fashion.

 "I didn't have the offensive opportunities against Detroit that I had -- besides in Game 6 -- against Vancouver," Clark said.

 "It was hard. And I think my play went along with the team's play. We weren't getting the shots to the net and I wasn't getting the shots to the net. And that's something that needs to be done to score goals.

 "But I'm just going to stick with what got me here and what helps out the team the most. It's not a time to show or try something new."

 True, Clark's contribution to the team effort is how he's measured. If he's scoring goals, it's a bonus. Otherwise, it's his hard-hat work ethic that makes him a vital cog in the current Cup run.

 And, this time, it's the Stanley one.

 "We had a good team in Saint John but we didn't have a team full of stars," said the

 28-year-old Clark. "It's exactly the same type of team we had there as we have here. Not a lot of teams knew we had that type of (winning) team. We just showed it when we needed to."


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