The Calgary Flames will venture into hostile territory tonight for the opening game of their best-of-seven playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

For the first time in seven years, the Blackhawks qualified for the NHL post-season and earned the right to host the Flames in the opening round by virtue of their better record.

The Flames will have their work cut out for them as Chicago fans will be out in full force to cheer on their beloved Blackhawks.

“I think the building’s going to be electric,” said veteran Calgary forward Craig Conroy. “It’s going to be rocking. It’s going to be fun for them, but it’s going to be fun for us too.”

Netminder Miikka Kiprusoff is actually looking forward to a raucous playoff atmosphere as the Flames play the first two games of the series in Chicago tonight (6:30 p.m., TSN, Fan 960) and Saturday night.

“That building has been great this year,” Kiprusoff said. “It’s going to be loud. That’s playoffs. I think we’re going to enjoy that.”

For the Flames to succeed, they’ll have to put their regular-season performance against the Hawks behind them. Chicago won all four games against Calgary this past season. The best the Flames could do was earn a single point after a 3-2 overtime loss to the Hawks at the Pengrowth Saddledome on Dec. 19.

“We wipe the slate clean,” proclaimed Calgary captain Jarome Iginla.

“We really believe in our group. We know we’ve been streaky at times, but we also know what we’re capable of and we know we’re getting guys back (from injuries). Our focus now is to go in and work on winning that first game, and that shifts a lot of pressure.”

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