Flames mum about Game 1 goalie vs. Avalanche

Avs may have Rantanen back for playoffs against Flames

Rick Sadowski - Rantanen excited for Game 1; discipline among keys to success

It doesn't appear to be safe to count any of the eight teams out. Nothing too fancy, nothing too demanding, just three (3) simple things that would be extra nice to see during the Avs' post-season. "I love playing for this team, this city and organization, so I put a lot of onus on my shoulders", said Johnson.

"You can go in with a team like we had past year without a lot of playoff experience but a lot of guys who are hungry to win ... so I think we have a lot of people like that".

The Pacific Division champion Flames certainly hope that's not the case.

They would know how precious making the playoffs is, too.

In terms of all-time wins between these two teams, the Flames have the advantage with a record of 78-66-20.

In this hypothetical situation, the Flames would have managed to score early and often in every game they played.

San Jose and Vegas have the most intriguing series in the conference's opening round and perhaps in the entire league.

On the other half of the bracket, the Central Division champion Nashville Predators face the wild-card Dallas Stars with the victor advancing to face Winnipeg or St. Louis.

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Maybe there's still another level for Mark Giordano to hit.

The Calgary Flames finished the season top in the Western Conference with 107 points.

Flames coach Bill Peters won't say if goaltender Mike Smith or David Rittich will start Game 1 Thursday against the Avalanche after the two split time in the net during the regular season. He was the Avalanche's second-leading scorer with 87 points (31 goals, 56 assists) in 74 games. In addition, Tyson Barrie ranked among the highest-scoring National Hockey League defensemen with 59 points. If he buckles under the pressure again, Semyon Varlamov is at the ready.

After a horrendous start to the season that saw his starter role unseeded, Smith has been one of the more consistent Flames heading into the playoffs. Mark Giordano did particularly well against the Colorado side, notching a goal and five assists to lead the team against the Avalanche.

It's a big reason why the Czech product only lost nine games in regulation all year and has allowed more than three goals in a game just three times in his last 17 starts. "We're going to go with the guy that gives us the best chance to win". The Predators also have plenty of help up front, with players such as centre Ryan Johansen scoring a team-high 64 points, and a deep blue line that includes Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis and P.K. Subban.

"He is back, he looks good", coach Jared Bednar said. "Power plays this time of the year are at a premium so we have to be careful with reaching in, chasing from behind". Johnny Gaudreau leads the team with 36. Goalie Connor Hellebuyck was not as sharp this season as he was a year ago and that might be a concern against a hot team.

Nobody is trying to suggest that what happens in the first half of the first period of the first game of a first-round playoff series is going to somehow decide who wins four of seven.

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