WILD (37-36-7) at FLAMES (40-31-9)
Last 10 -- Minnesota 3-6-1; Calgary 5-5-0
Season series -- This is the sixth and final meeting between the division rivals. The Wild have won four of the first five, most recently a 4-3 decision at Xcel Energy Center led by Chuck Kobasew's 2 goals and Mikko Koivu's 2 assists. Matt Stajan had a pair of assists for the Flames.
Big story -- With the playoffs now a non-factor for both teams, the only story surrounding this game is which guys will take pride in playing out the string in strong fashion to audition for jobs next season. For the Wild that means seeing how a few young faces look in NHL call-ups. For the Flames, it's trying to play through the disappointment of a season that started with sky-high expectations and will end without a trip to the playoffs for the first time since 2003..
Team Scope --
Wild -- Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher doesn't feel the need to sugarcoat his feelings about how the Wild season has gone.
"We were way too inconsistent in all areas of our game to be a playoff team," Fletcher told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "We just weren't good enough to make the playoffs. It wasn't a fluke."
The first-year GM, however, said he's confident his team won't be down for long.
"I'm not negative about the future at all," he said. "We did not accomplish what we wanted to accomplish. But I think the knee-jerk reaction is to assume the only way you're going to get better is by looking outside your organization. I strongly believe that a lot of the solutions of the problems we have are rooted within the organization."
Flames -- The players may be disappointed after being eliminated from the playoff race on Tuesday, when they lost 2-1 to San Jose and Colorado beat Vancouver, but Calgary's players promise to play hard in their final games.
"We want to play the right way, play hard for our fans," captain Jarome Iginla told the Calgary Sun. "It doesn't mean much, as far as being out of the playoffs, we can still finish the right way. It's still hockey, still in the NHL, still fun. We have to make sure we focus on those things."
Coach Brent Sutter said all his healthy regulars would be in the lineup.
"Obviously, things haven't worked out the way we would've liked to see happen this year, but you still have an obligation to the front of that jersey, you have an obligation to yourself and your teammates and you have an obligation to the tremendous fans that support this franchise through thick and thin," he said.
Who's hot -- Wild forward Andrew Brunette has goals in two straight games and 4 points in his last three games. He'll play 80 games for the eighth straight season; in that time, he's missed three games. … Flames forward Rene Bourque has been a bright spot on a team that has struggled offensively. In his last 11 games, he has 6 goals and 9 points, and his 26 goals and 57 points both are career highs.
Injury report -- The banged-up Wild could be without a number of regulars. Defenseman Marek Zidlicky could miss the rest of the season with an arm injury. Forward Guillaume Latendresse sat out Wednesday's practice due to back spasms. forwards Owen Nolan (knee), Martin Havlat (hamstring) and Chuck Kobasew (knee) are questionable. Defenseman Nick Schultz, who has been nursing a leg injury, should play. … For Calgary, forwards Daymond Langkow (neck), Curtis Glencross (knee) and Christopher Higgins (foot) are doubtful.
Stat pack -- Iginla is without a point in his last four games and hasn't scored a goal in nine. If he finishes the season with his current totals of 32 goals and 69 points, it would be his worst season since 1999-2000, when he had just 29 goals and 63 points.
Puck drop -- There has been much speculation involving Iginla's future in Calgary. He's reached icon status in the area, but the Flames -- who don't have a first- or second-round pick at the 2010 Entry Draft -- could fill a lot of needs if Iginla was dealt.
For his part, however, Iginla has no interest in waiving his no-trade clause and leaving what he considers an unfinished job.
"I want to be part of the solution, and I don't think we're that far (off)," he told the Calgary Sun. "It's tough today and I know there's going to be lots of talk, but from my point of view, I want to be here not just because it's comfortable or it's a nice city or the fans are into it. It's also because I think we can win. I know it's just words today and it feels very far (fetched) from the outside looking in, but there's other organizations that turned it around pretty quickly and went with some little adjustments or big adjustments and got right back.
"Vancouver was out two years ago, and the last couple of years has been a strong team and moved up quickly. I believe we can do that."