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Flames captain Iginla confident his club can beat Red Wings in playoffs

Calgary star Jarome Iginla respects the Red Wings, but likes his team's chances, particularly because he helped the Flames upset Detroit in the second round of the 2004 playoffs.

"It gives us confidence," Iginla said Wednesday, a day before Game 1 of their first-round series. "I think that we believe we can beat them.

"We know they're a very good team and we respect them, but at the same time, we've had really good games and competitions against them. This year, we've split the series and we were able to break their winning streak at home.

"We know it's the playoffs, but we're going to draw on the positive side of things. We beat them when they were playing very well."

The Red Wings have been one of the best teams during the regular season in recent years, and this year was no different.

Detroit tied Buffalo for the most points in the NHL - losing a tiebreaker for the Presidents' Trophy a year after winning it - and has at least tied for the most points in the league in three straight seasons and four of five.

But regular-season success has not translated to the postseason.

Since winning consecutive Stanley Cup titles in 1997-98, Detroit has lost in the first round in two of the last three postseasons and only made it past the second round in 2002, when it won the 10th championship in franchise history.

"There is some kind of pressure, but I like it," Red Wings goaltender Dominik Hasek said.

Hasek is playing in the postseason for the first time since helping Detroit win it all in 2002 after avoiding injuries that have plagued his stellar career recently.

"I feel great," said Hasek, sweat dripping off his face following practice. "I'm ready to go and I don't have any problems at all."

Hasek is the No. 1 reason Detroit believes it is built for a playoff run after Manny Legace was its goaltender last year in the playoffs.

"We were confident at this time last year, too, but it's night and day when you look at our goaltending situation," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "Goaltending is a huge factor.

"Pitching in baseball and goaltending in hockey are the greatest equalizers."

The Flames aren't too shabby in net, either.

Miikka Kiprusoff has a franchise-record 21 shutouts in the playoffs.

He frustrated Detroit with spectacular saves three years ago in the playoffs, en route to the Stanley Cup final, allowing just eight goals in four games.

Unlike Iginla, Kiprusoff doesn't put much stock in the previous postseason matchup with the Red Wings.

"To me, it's not that big of a deal because it's a new season," he said.

The Red Wings were determined to be tougher to play against this season and when the goal wasn't quite reached by midseason, they made two deals before the NHL's trading deadline two months ago.

Detroit acquired six-foot-three, 245-pound forward Todd Bertuzzi in one deal and gritty forward Kyle Calder in another.

When Bertuzzi (concussion) returns to the lineup, perhaps Sunday for Game 2, the Red Wings wouldn't trade their four lines of forwards for any team's rotation in the league.

"Our depth this year is something we haven't been able to match in a long time," said forward Kris Draper, one of a handful of players who has helped Detroit win three Stanley Cups since 1997. "That's going to be a big part of our success, hopefully being able to wear teams down.

"Each line is stronger and faster than we were last year, or the last couple of years."

Detroit will lean on its depth, but is also counting on young stars Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk to lead the way.

Zetterberg is expected to play after missing the last 19 games of the regular season with an inflamed disc in his back. The left wing had a team-high 33 goals and accounted for 68 points.

Datsyuk tied a career high with 87 points this season, but the centre is constantly reminded that he hasn't scored in the playoffs since 2002.

"I just need more shots and to go to the net. That's it," he said. "Maybe there is pressure now, but when the game starts that goes away and you just play."



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