Trying to reach the postseason for the first time, the Columbus Blue Jackets will begin a three-game trip to western Canada in a place where they haven't won in regulation in nearly six years.
Columbus (30-24-6) continues to push for the first playoff berth in franchise history in the crowded Western Conference standings. A good showing in this stretch - their longest remaining road trip this season - could be critical, particularly with games against fellow playoff hopefuls Edmonton and Vancouver on tap.
First, the Blue Jackets will face Calgary (35-18-6) and Kiprusoff, who has given them fits over the years. Kiprusoff is 7-0-2 with a 1.63 goals-against average in nine career home starts against Columbus. His 1.93 career GAA versus the Blue Jackets is his lowest against any opponent he's faced more than four times other than Minnesota (1.81).
Kiprusoff also enters without a regulation loss in his last seven starts overall, going 5-0-2 with a 2.35 GAA.
Calgary is 7-0-2 at home against Columbus since a 6-4 loss on March 29, 2003, with Kiprusoff starting the last eight games of that run. The goaltender, though, turned in one of his poorer efforts at the Saddledome against the Blue Jackets on Jan. 21, but the Flames won 5-4 in a shootout to avenge a 3-1 loss at Columbus on Nov. 8 in the other previous meeting between the clubs this season.
While Kiprusoff has played well recently for Calgary, the Blue Jackets have surged behind rookie Steve Mason, who leads the West with a 2.17 GAA. Mason, though, had a bad game Saturday at home against Anaheim, allowing five goals on 13 shots in a 5-2 loss.
"Mason would probably like to have a couple of them back, but he's saved our bacon more than anybody could imagine," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said.
The Blue Jackets failed to earn a point for the first time in eight games after going 6-0-1 in their previous seven. It was a costly loss, since it allowed Anaheim to pull within three points of Columbus in the playoff race.
"It (stinks) to give up two points to them but we have to put this one behind us within the next couple days and get ready for our trip out west," Columbus right wing Derek Dorsett said.
The Flames do not need to have the same sense of urgency as the Blue Jackets because of their eight-point lead over Vancouver in the Northwest. They have still been playing well, though, earning a fourth straight road win with a 3-2 shootout victory over Edmonton on Saturday.
Jarome Iginla scored Calgary's first goal in the second period, and Matthew Lombardi tied the game with 65 seconds left in regulation. Kiprusoff made 26 saves and stopped all three of Edmonton's attempts in the shootout.
"It's a big win for our team," Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf said. "They're not always going to be pretty but especially on the road against a team that played very hard. The effort was there, but it was not pretty. But you've got to win those ones, too."