LOOKING FOR A FOURTH STRAIGHT WIN OVER THE WILD
The Flames season series against the Wild didn't start off the way they would have liked. They dropped a 3-0 decision at home on Nov. 8, allowing Minnesota to pelt Miikka Kiprusoff with 26 shots and going 0-for-7 on the power play.
However, they won the next three games against Minnesota, outscoring the Wild 10-4 in the process. Defenceman Cory Sarich couldn't sum up why the Flames have had this much success over Minnesota this season, chalking it up to the ebb and flow of the divisional rivalry.
"It comes and it goes. You look at the last couple seasons, they had our number. If you can get a couple of wins out of the gate, that often helps when you see a club six times a year. I don't know why that is but it usually has something to do with your past history."
The Wild were on fire earlier in the season but have petered out in the second half of the campaign. They have won just nine of their last 38 games and have a single victory in their last five outings, being outscored 22-8 in that span.
According to associate coach Craig Hartsburg, those recent struggles cannot be something the team is thinking about. The Wild have some extremely talented players that are well versed in putting the puck in the back of the net.
"I think our game plan has to be about checking and making them make mistakes," he said. "If we get a good, solid effort by five guys on the ice - playing in both ends of the rink - again, we can frustrate them. They are a good team and they may have struggled at some times throughout the year but really, they're not that far out of it."
Matt Stajan reiterated a common refrain heard around the Flames dressing room lately - it doesn't matter who the team is playing, they have to play within the structure that makes them successful.
"We've got to play our game. If we don't sway away from our team game, we'll be fine. I think special teams is obviously key in any game and we need that to be huge for us again.
"Apart from that, we've just got to come to the rink, work hard and lean on one another. Make sure we're getting the job done. It's been a good week for us to this point and we want to make sure we end it strongly here before we go back home."
YET ANOTHER INJURY
Defenceman TJ Brodie did not make the trip to Minnesota as he suffered an upper body injury on Friday night. While his status is day-to-day, the medical staff knew on Friday he would be unable to play against the Wild this afternoon.
Anton Babchuk will draw back into the lineup in Brodie's absence and Hartsburg is expecting the 27 year-old to really focus in on his defensive game.
"We expect him to be real solid," he said. "Solid in our end, move the puck and when he gets a chance, obviously, to use his big shot - we want him to use it.
"But he's got to be really good, solid, defensively."
In 18 games this season, Babchuk has five assists and a plus-one rating. He's sent 19 shots at opposition goaltenders but has yet to score his first goal of the season.
A LEARNING EXPERIENCE
The past few days have been a whirlwind for winger Sven Baertschi but the youngster is trying use every experience as a tool to aid in his development.
"It's been good," he said after practice on Saturday afternoon. "It was a good learning process for me and just a great experience.
"It was my dream, playing my first hockey game, and now it's over. It was pretty cool."
Heading into Sunday's tilt with the Wild, Baertschi is looking for make slight adjustments in his game. His first taste of NHL action can best be descibed as eye opening, particularly when it comes to playing in the defensive zone. However, there were parts of his game that he found effective and he will try to make sure those aspects stay intact tonight.
"I want to keep playing the same way I did last night. I think I did some good things out there but there are some things I have to learn. I want to work on the little things out there on the ice. It's a lot faster game and I just want to make sure I do the right things out there."
Prior to his debut, the coaching staff urged Baertschi to let himself enjoy the experience rather than let his nerves take over. While they have offered some advice since that point in time, the message they delivered to the 19 year-old when he arrived in Calgary remains the same.
"They told me before, 'Just try your best out there and just try to play within our system,' and to make the right decisions out there all the time. I think that's the most important when you come up from junior up to the pros."
Authors Note: Morning Skate Report interviews were done on Saturday. The team will not skate this morning due to the early game time.