"California is beautiful. You get a swimming lesson first, then you get a practice," coach Bob Hartley joked.
Smiles were in abundance as the Flames reconvened at the Anaheim Ducks' practice facility, quite the turnaround from what their locker-room looked like after the 6-1 drubbing in Game 1. With two days off before the second-round series resumes Sunday at Honda Center, Hartley gave his team some time off. Centre Joe Colborne got to sleep in on Friday and players were free to organize their own dinner plans.
Even a film session to analyze the breakdowns that allowed the Ducks free reign was offset at the end by a clip of left winger Brandon Bollig's time as a child actor. Hartley showed some of Bollig's performance in the 2002 independent film "Defiance."
The gesture seemed to have the intended result.
"It's hilarious. We had a good laugh," Colborne said. "I think he had a better beard back then than I can still grow now, so it's a little embarrassing."
"They've been calling me my character's name since that, so I think they enjoyed it," Bollig said. "They didn't stop talking about it all yesterday, so I think it served its purpose."
The Flames' spirits were also bolstered by the presence of several key players who were limited in the opener. Jiri Hudler and Michael Ferland should be available after exiting the game early, while defenceman Raphael Diaz could make his series debut.
The biggest boost, however, came as Mark Giordano was able to go through practice with limited contact. Giordano missed the final 21 games of the regular season and the first-round series against the Winnipeg Jets with a biceps injury.
Colborne admitted he was surprised to see team captain Giordano out on the ice.
"He is the backbone of this team, so anytime you see him make that next step in his recovery is exciting for us," Colborne said.
Hartley was quick to caution that the upgrade in Giordano's status was a normal progression as part of his rehab regiment and not a sign of any potential imminent return.
"Nothing has changed," Hartley said. "It's all about doing what is right for the player. Our players are the best asset this organization has. Today is a good step in the right direction, but he's still very far (away)."
Giordano said the workout was intended to "get out there, get a feel for the speed, and push and lean on some guys. Hopefully I can ramp it up again and keep this process going."
The more immediate concern for the Flames is neutralizing the Ducks' pressure in front of the net, which will be manned by Karri Ramo. Ramo made 18 saves after replacing Jonas Hiller early in the second period, but Anaheim has no intention of making life easy for him in his first start since April 4.
"I think we approach him the same way as we approach Hiller," Ducks left-winger Patrick Maroon said. "We get in his eyes, we make him frustrated, we get the second and third opportunities and play hard. Those second and third opportunities are the ones that go in."
Pleased with how his team has responded to adversity throughout the season, Hartley is confident the Flames will respond, even if it does not bring the home-ice advantage back to Calgary.
"So many times we were left for dead, but we always showed great resiliency and battled back," Hartley said. "That's who we are and that's what we want to cultivate. We want to represent our community the right way and it's with a blue-collar approach. We will never quit."