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Calgary Flames season preview

THE BOTTOM LINE

By Jim Kelley, Special to ESPN.com


When last we saw the Flames, they were hanging their heads in sorrow, having lost Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup finals to "America's Team," the Tampa Bay Lightning. They have a chance to get there again.

Offense: The Flames have what may be the NHL's best player in Jarome Iginla (41 goals in 2003-04), but there's not much after that. This team will be challenged to score goals unless Tony Amonte recaptures his past or Steven Reinprecht discovers his potential.

Defense: Calgary's lack of offense is made up here, where the Flames show good puck handling and rock-hard play in their own zone and at every point on the ice. Want the definition of team defense? Look here.

Goaltending: Iginla gets the kudos, but it was Miikka Kiprusoff who ignited the playoff run for the Flames. He's quick, smart and unflappable, even in pressure situations.

WHERE THEY'LL FINISH
2nd
YES … They are tough, physical, hungry, have a leader and a scorer in Iginla, and they are well-coached and managed (coach Darryl Sutter is also the GM).
BUT … The weight of expectations have scuttled many young teams that get a taste and then have to measure up to near perfection every night. It could happen here.

PLAYER TO WATCH

Chuck Kobasew had a monster season in the AHL last time out (38 goals, 75 pts.). He's the guy that made Martin Gelinas expendable.

HEY, COACH!

Darryl Sutter is demanding and a big reason the Flames had playoff success after seven years wandering with the also-rans. It will, however, be a challenge to bring it all together again.


FACEOFFS
BEST OFFSEASON MOVE --> A ROMAN EMPIRE?


Amonte gets a lot of pub, but puck-moving defenseman Roman Hamrlik will be the player that creates offensive flow, especially on the power play.

WORST OFFSEASON MOVE --> LOSING MR. CLUTCH


Losing Martin Gelinas to Florida as a free agent. Offense isn't deep enough to cover for the loss of a sniper who knew how to score clutch goals.

Jarome Iginla, RW
Iginla was one of the best in the NHL, tied for the league lead with 41 goals and added 32 assists for the 2003-04 season.

Miikka Kiprusoff, G
Kiprusoff topped the league with the best goals-against average (1.69) and was second in save percentage (.933).

Quoteables

It going to be a good year battling against each other.

Jarome Iginla on facing the Oilers this season