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Calgary Flames coach Mike Keenan knows his team is struggling and he hasn't been shy about letting them know how he feels.
The Flames hope to avoid a third straight loss when they visit the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night as the teams conclude their four-game season series.
Just over a week ago, Calgary (33-23-9) was in the midst of a four-game winning and sat atop the Northwest Division. Heading into the weekend, though, the Flames have lost two straight, dropping them into second place in the tight division.
"I'm not happy with the team at all," Keenan said after a 3-1 loss to Anaheim on Friday. "I tried to reinforce the sense of urgency yesterday with them. We practiced poorly, and I thought it was reflective of our start. Our goalie wasn't ready for the game, nor was the team."
Defenseman Dion Phaneuf scored the lone goal, while Curtis Joseph stopped 13 of the 14 shots he faced after he replaced Miikka Kiprusoff at the start of the second period.
Calgary, which has won three in a row on the road, hopes to avoid its longest overall losing streak since an 0-3-1 skid from Jan. 8-15.
|The Flames seek to avoid a third straight loss when they visit Phoenix to close out their season series with the Coyotes on Satuday night. (AP Photo/Roy Dabner)|
The Flames hope this is the end of their recent woes, as a win on Saturday will pull them into a tie with Northwest-leading Minnesota, which is idle Saturday.
The Flames have dominated Phoenix (33-27-5) the last five seasons, going 13-3-1 in the series since Feb. 23, 2003. Following a 3-1 home loss to the Coyotes on Jan. 8, they have won each of the last two meetings - most recently a 4-1 victory at Phoenix.
Kiprusoff has been in net for each game against the Coyotes this season, and is 8-3-1 with a 2.05 goals-against average in 12 career appearances versus them. Meanwhile, Joseph, who spent each of the last two seasons with Phoenix, is 23-11-0 with three ties and a 2.72 GAA against the franchise.
While Calgary's starting goalie is unsure, Phoenix figures to start Ilya Bryzgalov, who is 4-2-0 with a 1.68 GAA and one shutout in his last six starts.
Bryzgalov is coming off a stellar performance, making 41 saves in a 2-1 win at St. Louis on Thursday. Ed Jovanovski and Niko Kapanen scored for Phoenix, which has won five of eight since losing four straight from Feb. 5-11.
"Every game is important for us," said Bryzgalov, who was claimed off waivers from Anaheim in November. "We want to stay in the playoff race and you have to get points every game."
The Coyotes have missed the playoffs in four straight seasons, but remain in the mix. With 71 points, they are just one point behind Colorado and Nashville, who are tied for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"It was a good victory for us," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "Obviously we're running out of games. For us to get a win (Thursday) was a big win."
Bryzgalov has started all three meetings with the Flames this season, but is 1-4-1 with a 2.80 GAA in six all-time meetings against them.
Phoenix center Peter Mueller leads all rookies with 19 goals and is fourth on the Coyotes with 43 points. He has six assists in his last 11 games, but hasn't scored a goal since he registered his second career hat trick in a 4-3 shootout loss at Calgary on Feb. 5.