Ville Nieminen was rolling out of the Saddledome parking lot after yesterday's practice, wheeling toward a group of eager Flames fans waiting for his autograph.
"They don't want mine," he grinned, flashing that joker's smile. "They're afraid I'm going to run them over."
The light-hearted reference, of course, is to Game 4 Thursday night when the pesky Finn failed to brake before causing a nasty fender bender with Red Wings goalie Curtis Joseph in the dying seconds of a 4-2 loss.
With the NHL suspending his license for one game, Nieminen was left pacing the floor Saturday at Joe Louis Arena like an expectant father, with Dave Lowry assuming his wing position.
Nieminen's expected return to the Flames lineup tonight for Game 6 and the chance to send the Motor City crew home for the summer will have him still driving to the net but using his head instead of his heart.
"For myself, I killed a good moment," he admitted of the Game 4 crease crash.
"I had good legs going. I was on the horse and obviously I fell off the horse but now I have to get back on there again."
"I didn't watch the game," Nieminen admits of the eventual 1-0 win Saturday and a 3-2 series lead. "I was in my track suit, walking the hallway back and forth.
"I watched one minute out of the last two periods. I came to check the clock. I was walking in the hallway with my Flames jacket on, I even took my suit jacket off and I was walking the hallway.
"I was giving a couple of fist pumps after the game, I was so relieved."
Nieminen said his expected return tonight might leave him the target of extra attention from the Wings but he isn't expecting the veteran squad to take stupid penalties seeking retribution.
"Of course, that team, nah," said Nieminen, whose earned a goal and an assist through four games against Detroit.
"That team is so good, they won't do anything (to take penalties)."
As for the two-car pileup he caused in Game 4, Nieminen is sounding contrite but passes some of the blame to the emotional crescendo hockey hits in the playoffs.
"Everybody has things in life they wish they had not done, at the same time it's an embarrassing moment too," Nieminen shrugs. "No, but I don't know what that was ... I think the game is so passionate, so intense.
"I feel like these teams, these games right now are so important, so passionate and we are so intense. You play like it's a do-or-die situation every night."
Back at the wheel
DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun
, Last Updated: 4:40 PM ET