WINNIPEG — The Calder Cup final starts tonight but for some Manitoba Moose, it might just as well be the middle of January.
"That's one of our goals, to just keep playing the way we've been playing," Moose centre Mark Cullen said this morning at the MTS Centre, where the Moose start the AHL's best-of-seven championship series against the Hershey Bears. "System-wise, we'll go from where we've been."
"Change? No. Nothing," said Moose defenceman Nolan Baumgartner. "You just go about your business. You get your routine and you stick with it. It's what we've been doing all year. Why would you change now?"
As of this afternoon, all 15,003 tickets for tonight are sold. And the Moose have sold 10,700 tickets for Tuesday night's game.
"For sure I think everybody will be bit nervous, especially in front of a big crowd tonight," Cullen said. "But that's our job not to let that affect us."
The fans, he said, could be a big factor tonight.
"A good crowd is a good crowd but when it's full and good, it just makes it that much more intense and exciting, especially if we can get an early goal and get the crowd into it," Cullen said. "I think it'll be harder to play in if you're the visitor. Hopefully we can get them involved tonight and keep it going."
It appears as if the Moose will ice the same lineup they used to defeat Houston in Game 6 of the conference final last Monday.
That means that Alexandre Bolduc, believed to be the closest to playing from the injured list, may miss a fourth straight game with a lower-body injury. Bolduc did skate with his teammates this morning but stayed out on the ice for almost the full hour, indicating tonight may not be his return.
There was one surprise at the MTS Centre this morning.
Former Moose coach Randy Carlyle, now the head coach of the NHL's Anaheim Ducks, walked into the team complex about 10:45 a.m. and paid Moose coach Scott Arniel a visit.
Carlyle, who's expected to attend tonight's game, coached the Moose from 1996-2001 and again in the 2004-05 season.