Blueline's a little green

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 2:30 PM ET


 The blueline brigade is green.

 That's hardly a revelation to anyone who follows the Calgary Flames.

 But that defence corps is even more inexperienced with regard to the NHL playoffs, as only two of the eight defencemen boast experience beyond the 82-game regular-season schedule.

 "No way. Are you kidding?" said Flames sophomore Jordan Leopold with a smile regarding the experience -- or rather lack of it -- at hand.

 "We know it but we definitely have an itch -- have a fever -- to get into the playoffs. A lot of us haven't been there and we're excited to get there and experience that.

 "We don't have much experience but all of us want that experience and all of us want to leave 100 percent out there."

 It's that kind of youthful exuberance that bodes well for these playoff neophytes.

 After all, the raw post-season rookies have to start somewhere.

 Only Andrew Ference and Rhett Warrener have playoff action on their resumes.

 Leopold, Toni Lydman, Robyn Regehr, Denis Gauthier and Steve Montador have only played professionally with the Flames, who, of course, have missed the playoffs the last seven seasons.

 And Mike Commodore, new to the Flames late last season, played 57 games during two campaigns with the New Jersey Devils but never dressed for any games in the 2001 and 2002 playoff runs.

 "I'm sure our lack of experience will be made up by our intensity and our desire and willingness to be the best," said Gauthier, in his seventh season with the Flames.

 "This corps of 'D' has been building for the last few years and we add one or two pieces every year.

 "We get along so great off the ice and, on the ice, our camaraderie is pretty unbelievable like the rest of the team.

 "It's a pretty unique thing to have eight young defenceman like that. Just to have that desire to be the best and the best young group for a long time is something special.

 "It's already turned out to be pretty good but we've still got some work to do."

 Especially now that the second season is about to begin.

 But that's when Gauthier and his inexperienced brethren will turn to Ference and Warrener.

 Ference played all 18 games in a run by the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2001 Stanley Cup playoffs.

 And Warrener has 64 post-season games under his belt, including unlikely runs with the Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres to the respective 1996 and '99 Stanley Cup final series.

 "This guy's been in some pretty critical games -- a lot more than we have," said Gauthier of his blueline partner Warrener.

 "And Andy's been in a few, too. So we can feed off their experience.

 "When it comes to crunch time, we'll look up to these guys and have them show us the way off the ice and we'll carry it onto the ice.

 "The playoffs aren't always going to go your way, so that's when you rally around guys like that. They've been through the tough times in the playoffs and they can answer some questions for you."

 Really, it's already something Warrener has done since arriving here in an off-season trade with the Buffalo Sabres.

 "He's been very good for our team," said captain Jarome Iginla.

 "He has the experience that he brings to the 'D' and he calms them down.

 "Add him to Regehr and Gauthier and it's a tough group."

 And it's a group that believes in itself.

 "I like it that I've played in big games -- just not in the NHL," added Leopold, who captained the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers to the 2002 NCAA championship title.

 "When it comes down to it, big games are just big games. It's another game to go out and prove yourself. Really, you have to approach it as any other game."


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