Saturday, May 29, 2004

Sutter not shy about getting messages to his players


Stanley Cup notebook

By Ira Podell
The Associated Press

CALGARY, Alberta - The Calgary Flames always know where they stand with no-nonsense coach Darryl Sutter.

When talking to reporters during the Stanley Cup finals, Sutter is usually a man of few words. That isn't always the case when he needs to get a message to a player with whom he isn't pleased.

"He's hard on guys he thinks can give more," defenseman Robyn Regehr said Friday. "He is a guy that has very high standards for each and every one of the players he has on his team."

So what happens when someone is not in line with what Sutter expects?

"He will tell you exactly the way he thinks you played even if you think different," Regehr said. "You're not left to wonder.

"If he doesn't tell you personally, he'll let you know in opher ways whether it's in the paper or other forms of media."

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SHOWING SUPPORT: You can't go too far in Calgary without seeing how the town has become engrossed in the Flames' surprising run to the Stanley Cup finals.

The sixth-seeded Flames, tied 1-1 in the best-of-seven series with the Tampa Bay Lightning, will host their first game in the finals on Saturday since winning the Cup in 1989.

And Calgary can't wait.

There are signs in storefronts and countless Flames flags attached to cars. In the hallway that leads to the Calgary dressing room at the Saddledome, posters, pictures, and supportive banners cover the walls.

"It's a nice touch," said forward Marcus Nilson, acquired by the Flames just before the trade deadline. "I try to read a little bit every day when I walk by. There's a lot of stuff up there."

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LIGHTNING OUTLOOK: The Tampa Bay Lightning had to shed the low-expectation attitude surrounding the team before they could become a championship-calibur club.

When forward Tim Taylor was traded to Tampa Bay in June 2001, the Lightning had just completed their fourth straight 50-loss season, including defeats in overtime.

It was hard to believe then that it would take just three seasons for the Lightning to reach the Stanley Cup finals. But that's just what the Lightning had to do - believe.

"When I first came here, a loss - if it was close - it wasn't too bad," Taylor said Friday, one day before Game 3. "It was 'You guys played all right, you just didn't get the job done.' Now, a loss is a loss. Guys understand now that if you win, you've succeeded no matter how you got it done."

The Lightning split the first two games of the series against the Calgary Flames at home and will put their 5-2 road mark in the postseason on the line Saturday night.

A victory will put them within two of their first Stanley Cup in 12 NHL seasons.

"Enjoy it or not, you have to go on the road and win games," forward Martin St. Louis said.

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AN ABUNDANCE OF RICHARDS: With six winning goals in this year's playoffs, Lightning forward Brad Richards is certainly enjoying this postseason much more than last year.

In 11 playoff games in 2003, Richards had no goals and five assists as the Lightning were eliminated in the second round. But the 24-year-old center has turned it all around in this his fourth NHL season and second trip to the playoffs.

He has nine goals and 20 points, one fewer than teammate Martin St. Louis, the playoffs leader.

Richards and the Lightning both took many steps to make sure the disappointing performance in 2003 wasn't repeated.

"I'm just playing a lot harder away from the puck and around the puck," he said. "I'm trying to be more physical, keep my feet moving at all times. Last year they were stuck in mud a lot of games.

"I really wanted to try to help the team because I didn't last year. Maybe I could've helped a little more and done something else."




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