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Preview: Flames vs. Red Wings

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

The Detroit Red Wings return from the All-Star break with the NHL's most points and one of the league's highest-scoring offenses.

Although the Calgary Flames are in 11th place in the Western Conference, they're unlikely to be intimidated.

The Red Wings, who have struggled away from Detroit, open a stretch of four consecutive road games Tuesday night against the Flames, one of the few teams to give the Central Division leaders trouble this season.

Detroit (33-16-1) had a slightly shorter break than most teams after playing in the NHL's lone game Wednesday heading into All-Star weekend. The Red Wings played as if their vacation had already started, however, losing to Montreal 7-2.

It was a frustrating way to go into the break for a team that had won seven straight games to open up a two-point lead atop the crowded Central.

"Those games are pretty uncharacteristic for our group but they're going to happen over the course of an 82-game schedule and you just got to let them go," Jimmy Howard said after stopping 11 of 13 shots for Team Chara in a 12-9 victory in Sunday's All-Star game.

Howard and Pavel Datsyuk, who had three assists for Team Chara, were the two Red Wings to play in the All-Star game, and they're not going to get much rest with the team in Western Canada for three games before stopping in Phoenix next Monday.

Although the Red Wings lead the NHL with 67 points and average 3.1 goals per game - fifth in the league - playing away from Detroit hasn't been easy. They're 13-14-0 on the road, including a 3-2 loss in Calgary on Dec. 22 in the most recent meeting.

The Flames are 2-1-0 against Detroit and are one of only three teams to win at Joe Louis Arena, where the Wings are 20-2-1 and have reeled off a franchise-record 17 straight victories since their Nov. 3 loss to Calgary.

Miikka Kiprusoff is 2-1-0 with a 2.67 goals-against average against Detroit, holding Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula, Jiri Hudler and Datsyuk - the Wings' top four scorers - to a combined three goals.

The Flames (23-21-6), three points out of a playoff spot, return to the ice after ending the first half with last Tuesday's 1-0 loss to San Jose. Calgary has lost its last two at home after winning eight straight at the Saddledome.

"Not good enough," said Mike Cammalleri, who has no points in four games since scoring in his first game after being acquired from Montreal. "We've talked a lot about our assertiveness of late. It's the National Hockey League so you've always got to give credit to your opponent as well, but at the same time, we'd like to make things harder on our opponent."

Kiprusoff and the defense are making it pretty tough on opponents, yielding a total of five goals in the last four games. The offense, however, has been held to two or fewer in five of its last six.

Captain Jarome Iginla, tied with Curtis Glencross for the team lead with 18 goals, has been in the middle of the recent struggles, tallying one goal in the last six contests. Iginla, who had a goal and two assists for Team Chara on Sunday, had three goals in the two games Howard started for Detroit this season.

Howard, who allowed four first-period goals on 12 shots before getting pulled at Montreal, has given up at least three goals in each of his last four starts versus Calgary.

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