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Eric Francis: Something's gotta give in physical series between Flames and Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. – From afar, expectations surrounding the clash between the Anaheim Ducks and Calgary Flames revolve largely around it being a nasty, physical series sure to produce old-time hockey. (Read: Fights)

However, inside both dressing rooms the focus is entirely opposite.

Something’s gotta give.

“The No. 1 thing on our board from Day 1 is our discipline has to be improved – we cannot afford a penalty parade,” said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle, whose club fought in every game against the Flames except one.

“We know emotions are going to be ramped up in a playoff series but if we can stay within the rules and play the right way we give ourselves a much better chance, versus a penalty parade that we’ve encountered a few times this season.”

Like, say, the last time these two teams played, producing 106 penalty minutes in the third period when the Ducks responded angrily to a Mark Giordano hit on Cam Fowler that has sidelined the star blue-liner.

The discipline mantra is easier said than done for the two most-penalized teams in the NHL who fought eight times in their five regular-season games, amassing 256 penalty minutes.

“I think it’s going to be a physical series but I think it will be a whistle-to-whistle series and that’s how we’re approaching it,” said Flames coach Glen Gulutzan, whose team needn’t be reminded of the early season struggles the team had when discipline was a major source of concern.

“Randy has won and recognizes the importance of (discipline) and so do we. Special teams become so important – the margins are so tight that a penalty here or there can be the difference. You can’t take unnecessary penalties.”

Like the kind borne out of frustration, anger or laziness.

To illustrate how costly penalties were when the two met, the Ducks converted 30 per cent of their power plays (six for 20) and the Flames operated at a 24 per cent clip (four of 17).

That’s why Carlyle, Ryan Kesler and everyone else asked insisted there will be no spillover from the Giordano hit.

“It was dealt with that game and it’s over with,” said Kesler before breaking into a rare grin.

“Sorry guys, no headlines.”

No hijinks either, they insist.

We’ll believe it when we see it.

Fact is, both teams play a heavy game and will open Thursday’s game trying to establish themselves by hitting everything that moves. They openly admit that.

But according to the players, the team that does the best job turning the other cheek when push comes to shove has the best chance to win.

That’s why both teams spent their final practices Wednesday focusing on special teams.

It says here that at some point early in the series, perhaps late in a lost cause, someone is going to flip a lid and the fireworks will begin. Prior to that emotion will surely play a role in penalty problems.

Let’s face it, these teams have a genuine hatred for one another.

“Whatever you want to call it, call it a dislike, a rivalry or a competitiveness, it’s two teams that want to win,” said Ducks defenceman Kevin Bieksa, a well-known agitator of Flames clubs for years.

“It’s a division rival. We’ve had physical games and we’re two physical teams. It’s going to be an emotional series – there’s a history between the two teams. But we’re going to be putting the series and the team first above anything else.

“We’re all alpha males here and everybody wants to be the biggest and baddest, but at the end of the day every guy would take a punch or a licking to win the series.”

Asked what he knew most about the Flames, Bieksa cited the Flames 11th-ranked power play.

The Ducks sit 17th.

Carlyle admitted that while discipline is his chief concern, there’s another one on his mind – the 27-game winning streak his Ducks have accumulated at home against Calgary.

“The bottom line is that streaks are going to get broken at some point – that’s the dangerous point for us,” said Carlyle, whose team won four of five against Calgary this year but could be set back on their heels with an early loss at the Honda Center.

“Both coaching staffs are going to ask their teams to be disciplined, play close to mistake-free hockey and be competitive out there.”

Good luck on those first two requests.

ericfrancis@shaw.ca

@EricFrancis

FUENTE:

http://calgaryherald.com/sports/hockey/nhl/calgary-flames/eric-francis-somethings-gotta-give-in-physical-series-between-flames-and-ducks