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Preview: Flames vs. Sharks

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

FLAMES (24-22-7) at SHARKS (29-15-6)

Last 10 : Calgary 5-3-2, San Jose 5-4-1.

Season Series: Third of four, both games this season epic duels between Antti Niemi and Miikka Kiprusoff, the first a 2-1 shootout win for the Sharks in which Niemi made 27 saves to Kiprusoff's 30. The second took place just before the All-Star break and was decided by Benn Ferriero's lone goal of the game.

Big story: The Flames have ridden Kiprusoff's goaltending to a respectable record over their last 10, but have had difficulty scoring consistently, lighting the lamp two or fewer times in nine of their last 13 games. The Sharks' main concern these days is locking down the Pacific Division and a top-three seed, but will be hitting the road on a nine-game trip starting next week and will face a loaded 17-game schedule in March.

Team scope:

Flames: When a goalie is playing as well as Kiprusoff is, the last thing a team wants to do is waste it. He did all he could to keep his team in the game against the Ducks, getting them through a big second-period five-on-three situation and even held the fort during eight rounds in the shootout, but still came up with a 3-2 loss, their 14th in a row in the Honda Center and delaying his 300th NHL win for another night.

The Flames have not won there since Jan. 19, 2004.

"You can't think about it that way," said Kiprusoff in the Calgary Herald, who turned away 31 shots in regulation and seven in the shootout. "We had a really good chance tonight to win it. It didn't happen, but it's the same thing if you win a lot in one building. If you start thinking too much, it's not good for yourself."

Sharks: When a team is hot, it seems the bounces go its way, and it's the opposite scenario when a team is struggling. On Saturday, it was the Coyotes getting the bounces on the Sharks, as one Phoenix goal glanced off a Shark defender's stick and another off a skate past Niemi in a 5-3 Coyotes win.

"Just a tough night," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "We outshot them and had our chances to win. But we had some fluke things happen, and we lose the game."

Coach Todd McLellan was a much tougher sell on the idea.

If we give up four (goals minus the empty-netter), we're not winning," said McLellan in the San Jose Mercury News. "It's as simple as that. We've been very good defensively lately, but today it got away from us."

Who's hot: Kiprusoff has a 1.60 goals-against average in his last 11 games, going 6-3-2 over the stretch. Jarome Iginla has two goals and an assist in his last two games, while Olli Jokinen has six points (1 goal, 5 assists) in his last six. Logan Couture has a six-game point streak going with four goals and five assists. Joe Thornton has six points (3 goals, 3 assists) in his last three games. Patrick Marleau has scored a goal in three straight games, but has only two in his last 12 meetings with the Flames.

Injury report: Two reasons the Flames have struggled offensively are the prolonged absences of Curtis Glencross (knee) and Lee Stempniak (high ankle sprain). Neither is expected back until March. Sharks defenseman Jason Demers (lower body) was placed on injured reserve last Thursday, while forward Tommy Wingels (upper body) has been on IR since Jan. 21. Martin Havlat (surgically repaired hamstring) is expected to return before the end of the regular season.

Stat pack: When Kiprusoff finally does win his 300th, he will be the 27th goalie in NHL history to reach the milestone. Niemi is 8-1-0 with a 2.07 GAA versus the Flames, but has been up-and-down to the extreme over his last nine starts overall. In his four wins, he has a 0.24 GAA and three shutouts, but has allowed four goals in each of five losses. Calgary's gotten some extra help from its power play, which is 8-for-33 in the last 11 games (24.3. percent). Iginla's goal Monday marked the 13th season in a row of 20 or more, most among active players.

Puck drop: Iginla has been the subject of trade rumors leading up to the Feb. 27 deadline, but with a no-movement clause in his contract, he can dictate his own fate, and right now he likes his chances in Calgary.

"We've played Detroit," he told the Herald. "We've played Vancouver. We've played San Jose. And we've played them lately. And while we respect them, we definitely feel we can beat them… I like it in Calgary. I believe we can be in the playoffs and have a shot."

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