Wings won't quit

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:43 PM ET


 It would be nice for the Flames to think their opposition is on the ropes.

 That the Detroit Red Wings, proven no longer invincible, are staggering and primed for a near knockout punch.

 That the seeds of doubt are planted.

 Nice to think.

 Just not realistic.

 After all, there's a reason Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, Brett Hull, Nicklas Lidstrom and the rest of the Wings have enough Stanley Cup rings to open a jewelry store.

 Make that a chain of stores with locations from coast to coast.

 And the Flames know their opposition isn't about to panic.

 "This is an experienced team we're playing against and a lot of veterans who know what they have to do to win," said Flames defenceman Jordan Leopold. "Really, we're trying to find ways to win. We did that (Tuesday) night with a big game coming up."

 Up for grabs isn't just a Game 4 victory when the Flames play host to Detroit tonight at the Saddledome.

 It's a chance to take an unlikely stranglehold on the series and an opportunity to put a skate on the collective throat of the Wings.

 Leading 2-1 in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal, the Flames will hit the ice looking to build on Tuesday's victory, knowing they'll see a Red Wings club capable of reaching another level.

 "We expect it to be a tougher game," said Calgary captain Jarome Iginla.

 "(Tuesday's) game was tough and very close but we know they're a very good team and will be even hungrier and even more desperate. It'll be a harder game and we've got to be prepared for the first period.

 "We don't expect to push them and have them back up and think: 'What's going on?' We expect the next game to be even tougher because they're a veteran team."

 A veteran team that, based on the way the last outing went, the Flames have stopped admiring.

 The collection of talent from the Motor City is certainly impressive. Future Hall-of-Famers come off the bench seemingly after every whistle and the Flames, at first, appeared slightly awestruck.

 That all changed when the stage changed to the 'Dome.

 The Flames went from hunted to the hunter. They initiated the contact. They won battles. They set the tone.

 "Right now, it's a series of men against men. It's not names against names," Leopold said. "It's playoff time and what it comes down to is who wants it more.

 It doesn't matter if you've got a 35-year-old on the ice or a 22-year-old. Everybody's going to give the same effort, go and play their best and try to get a win for their team.

 "Right now, we're up in the series and feel good about that but we definitely haven't won anything. It's two more games to win to clinch the series and they've got three, so it's going to be a long battle."

 Exactly what the Wings believe.

 "We've been in this situation before in past years and will draw the positives from that," said Detroit forward Darren McCarty.

 "It's the same sort of mindset you've got to have when it was 2-2 going against Nashville. It's an important game, not more, you've just got to win a game. We've done that before, responded pretty well, in the past."

 One thing to expect is at least one defensive warrior back in action.

 Seeing as Detroit's Chris Chelios practised fully yesterday, it's a good bet he'll return from an upper-body injury -- likely a shoulder problem after a thunderous hit from Oleg Saprykin in Game 2.

 The status of Calgary's Rhett Warrener, out due to an eye injury, is up in the air.

 "I really don't know," said assistant coach Jim Playfair. "We thought he was gonna play until 2 or 3 o'clock (Tuesday), so I don't have a clue.

 "I hope he's going to play but I don't know."


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