Niemo enjoyin' these Av-nots

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 2:03 PM ET


 The 2001 Colorado Avalanche was a wrecking machine that destroyed every opponent that rolled down the conveyor belt.

 Winners of 52 games, the President's Trophy and almost inevitably the Stanley Cup, each goal was an expected reward.

 Winger Ville Nieminen earned a ring that spring as part of the Avalanche and says there is a stark contrast between the mindset of that championship squad and today's Flames.

 "In Colorado, we just got a series out of the way and moved to the next level," Nieminen remembered.

 "Here, we battle and enjoy and we have so much desire and so much emotion.

 "Every game is like Game 7 for us and it is just a great feeling.

 "In Colorado, they were expecting to win the Stanley Cup that year.

 "This year here in Calgary, we are just battling and taking pride in every win and enjoying every moment."

 Nieminen suggests knocking off the Red Wings in Game 6 and avoiding a return to Detroit could be crucial to the Flames' success in the Western Conference final.

 It means a couple of extra days rest while boosting the young club's confidence to take on its next opponent.

 "It was a real key to end the series here (Monday) night," he suggested, adding the club's fitness level was a contributing factor.

 "Against that team, we might have, had we lost that game, lost our confidence and those kinds of things, so it was huge for us to end it here.

 "That's why we work in the summertime, so we have good stamina.

 "But we never ask anything to be easy and next series, it won't be easy and it's going to go six, seven games again.

 "Everything starts from the hard work. We do all the little things right, those are the things we rely on, our system and goaltending and we have a few good goal scorers.

 "Those are the things we rely on and that makes our hockey club very accountable.

 "Our mindset is to try to out-work the guy beside you and that's the mentality we have."

 Nieminen said the Motown showdown shifted after Game 2 when the Flames elevated their play after earning a split and began steering towards a series win.

 "We were not in the driver's seat the first two games, we were passengers," Nieminen offered. "We were happy coming out of Detroit with the one win but, I think, starting from Game 3, we had one bus and 20 drivers."


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