CALGARY — For the Calgary Flames to extend their Cinderella run in the NHL playoffs, they’ll need to conquer the hostile Honda Centre.
The Flames open their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series on the road this week against the Anaheim Ducks. The NHL has yet to announce the schedule as other first-round series are still in progress.
Calgary hasn’t won a regular-season game in Anaheim since Jan. 19, 2004, for a 20-game losing streak.
The Flames did earn a single playoff win there April 25, 2006, in the one previous playoff round between the two clubs.
The Ducks won the other two at home and Game 7 in Calgary to advance to the second round that year.
The Flames face a Ducks team as resilient as they and more rested. Both clubs earned 24 points in the regular season when trailing after two periods which was second only to Detroit’s 25.
Calgary twice came from behind to beat the Vancouver Canucks 7-4 in Saturday’s Game 6 and get beyond the first round for the first time since 2004.
In their four-game sweep of the Winnipeg Jets in the first round, the Ducks became the first team in playoff history to win three games when trailing after two periods.
“They beat out a very good team in Winnipeg,” Flames assistant captain Kris Russell said. “They swept them so we’ve got to make sure we’re ready.”
Anaheim will have had about a week between their first and second series to top up their tanks. Calgary is riding their top three defencemen — T.J. Brodie, Russell and Dennis Wideman — hard.
Defenceman Deryk Engelland also played a series-high 22 minutes 56 minutes Saturday because he had one shift where he couldn’t get off the ice for three minutes 22 seconds.
“We’ve just got to get a couple days in here of rest,” Flames forward Michael Ferland said. “Anaheim is a big, tough physical team and we’ve got to be ready to hit them back.”
Anaheim (51-24-7) topped the Western Conference with 109 points. Calgary (45-30-7) was eighth with 97 points. The Flames earned third in the Pacific Division, however, to gain a divisional matchup with the Canucks instead of a first-round meeting with the Ducks.
Anaheim posted a 3-2 record in the regular season against Calgary, but the Flames doubled them 6-3 in their most recent meeting March 11 at the Saddledome.
Calgary matched a franchise record for road wins with 22 this season, but Anaheim’s away record of 25-12-4 topped the Western Conference.
The prominent storyline of this series is Calgary goaltender Jonas Hiller is Anaheim’s former No. 1. Hiller was demoted from starter just over a year ago in Anaheim and appeared in six of their 13 playoff games in 2014.
The Ducks didn’t offer the 33-year-old a contract extension and went with Frederik Andersen and John Gibson instead for this season. Hiller signed with Calgary as a free agent last July.
The Swiss goaltender was solid to conclude the regular season and in the first five games of the Vancouver series. But he was pulled for Karri Ramo after giving up two goals on the first three shots he faced Saturday.
Hartley followed a philosophy of “he who wins the last game, starts the next” during the regular season, so it remains to be seen whether Hiller or Ramo gets the nod for Game 1 versus Anaheim.
“I apologized to Jonas Hiller in front of the entire team,” Hartley said following Saturday night’s win. “I didn’t pull him because I felt it was his fault. I just felt it wasn’t a good start for us. There was water in the fuel.
“Sometimes just changing the goalie changes the pace of the game. It kind of creates a reaction (among) the players. Our players answered back.”