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Preview: Flames-Blues

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

With four games left, the Calgary Flames have little margin for error as they look to earn a playoff berth. A matchup with the suddenly high-scoring St. Louis Blues could make it tough for the Flames to end their untimely slump.

Calgary, though, can sweep the season series for the first time since 2006-07 on Friday night as they face a Blues team coming off its best offensive performance in 17 years.

The Flames (38-29-11) are three points behind Chicago for the final Western Conference playoff spot, but the Blackhawks have two games in hand. Calgary is also battling Dallas, which will have one game in hand over the Flames going into Thursday's action.

Calgary's slim postseason hopes took a major hit with a 4-2 home defeat to Anaheim on Wednesday.

"Obviously a disappointing loss," said coach Brent Sutter, whose team has dropped seven of nine. "We're not quitting, we have four games to go here and you never know what can happen. But obviously losing tonight, our odds diminish."

The Flames, though, have won all three meetings with the Blues (35-32-10) this season and are 10-2-1 in their last 13 visits to St. Louis. In the lone matchup there this season, Calgary won 6-0 on March 1 as Miikka Kiprusoff posted his second consecutive shutout of the Blues.

Kiprusoff, 17-2-2 with a 1.74 goals-against average versus St. Louis as a member of the Flames, turned away 27 shots in a 1-0 victory over the Blues on Feb. 27.

He has gone 2-4-1 with a 3.75 GAA in his last eight starts, but could be in net to face a St. Louis club that is coming off a 10-3 victory at Detroit on Wednesday. Nine Blues scored in the team's highest-scoring game since an 11-1 win at Ottawa on Feb. 26, 1994.

'We just kept pushing and it started steamrolling," said forward Cam Janssen, who ended a 114-game goal drought.

Since totaling 42 goals during a 5-11-0 stretch from Feb. 21-March 22, the Blues have scored 22 times during a 3-0-1 run. Chris Stewart has sparked the surge with a team-best five goals and two assists.

"The guys know how important it is to start creating success now," coach Davis Payne said. "We could talk about what hasn't happened this season, but we're just focused on working to lay the groundwork for us down the road. Good habits aren't something you just turn on, you have to work to create them."

T.J. Oshie has apparently learned that lesson. The third-year center will return Friday after serving a two-game suspension for missing Monday's practice.

"I was irresponsible. I made a mistake," Oshie said Thursday. "I realize that. It was my full responsibility to get here (on Monday) and get here on time."

Jaroslav Halak has gone 1-3-0 with a 3.02 GAA versus Calgary. Backup Ty Conklin made 16 saves in a 4-1 road loss to the Flames on Jan. 26 that ended the Blues' five-game point streak in the series.

Whoever starts in goal could be tested by the Flames' Jarome Iginla, who has 12 goals and 19 assists in his last 17 games at St. Louis.

Iginla is three points shy of 1,000.

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