Sub-plots

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:14 PM ET

 For those who figure the NHL's conference finals will regress into a pair of snooze-fests, don't go scrambling for the bottle of NoDoz just yet.

 The reality is, even the sappiest of afternoon soap operas could not outdo the juicy story lines that dominate the two series, matchups that feature the Calgary Flames, Canada's adopted team, versus the Cinderella San Jose Sharks; and the high-octane Tampa Bay Lightning against perennial powerhouse Philadelphia Flyers.

  And even if those parties in question don't spew off about their respective issues, there is no shortage of bitterness and potential for revenge.

 FLAMES COACH DARRYL SUTTER VS. THE SHARKS

 Sutter yesterday again clammed up when asked if he harboured any personal vendettas against the Sharks, the organization that fired him as head coach early in the 2003-04 season.

 "It's not an issue to me," a tight-lipped Sutter maintained.

 The Sharks aren't buying it. There remains too much emotional baggage from Sutter's tenure in San Jose to make this situation a "non-issue."

 "Darryl can say all he wants that it has no impact on him, but there will be some emotional ties," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "I know how I felt the year, two years after every time we played against Anaheim (a team that let Wilson go as coach). I wanted to beat them bad. You're always going to think about being let go."

 And what of players such as Sharks superstar Patrick Marleau, who had his share of past run-ins with Sutter.

 "None of our players want to go out there and prove anything to Darryl," Wilson claimed. "They have a lot of respect for him."

 FLAMES GOALIE MIIKKA KIPRUSOFF VS. THE SHARKS

 It was early November and Miikka Kiprusoff was nothing more than a teal-and-gray afterthought. Stuck behind Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala, Kiprusoff was collecting splinters on the San Jose bench when Sutter traded for him.

 The rest is history. No one player has reversed the fortunes of the Cinderella Flames than Kiprusoff, whose magnificent play makes him an early front-runner for the Conn Smythe.

 "I dont think anyone thought he'd be this successful," Sutter said. "Roman Turek was hurt and (Miikka) fit in salary and age-wise.

 "I thought he had the chance to be No. 1 but I can't say I thought at the time he'd be the No.1. With the depth of goaltending in the league he might still be No. 3 (in San Jose)."

 FLYERS GM BOB CLARKE VS. LIGHTNING ASSISTANT COACH CRAIG RAMSAY

 Ramsay calls his dismissal as Flyers head coach "unfortunate."

 That's hardly the type of bulletin board fodder that would ignite his former team into snapping. But Ramsay is not the type to publicly trumpet whether he has a grudge or not. That is not his way.

 Nevertheless, beating the team that fired him would be icing on the cake, wouldn't it?

 Ramsay took over the Flyers midway through the 1999-2000 season. They went 16-8-1 under Ramsay and advanced to the Eastern Conference final, losing to eventual-Cup champion New Jersey in seven games. The next season, the Flyers were crippled by injuries and still were 12-12-4 in December, but that wasn't enough to save Ramsay's job.

 "You hope to have a little more time," Ramsay said. "There's always a sense that you left something unfinished, especially coming off a year when you are so darn close."

 That's about as close as Ramsay comes to sounding bitter.

 LIGHTNING DIRECTOR OF PLAYER PERSONNEL BILL BARBER VS. FLYERS

 By all accounts, the Philadelphia Flyers quit on Barber.

 During the 2001-02 playoffs, a Flyers team featuring offensive studs like Simon Gagne, Mark Recchi and John LeClair set a franchise record for futility by scoring just twice in a five-game series loss to the Ottawa Senators.

 The stories still linger in Philly concerning a players' revolt against Barber, one that is rumoured to have included captain Keith Primeau. While the players have, for the most part, refused comment, the whispers suggesting the rejection of Barber in the dressing room just won't go away.

 With many of those same players still in the Flyers lineup, a Lightning victory in the conference final would be wonderful revenge indeed, even if Barber doesn't say it publicly.


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