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Scouting the Competition: 15.11.09

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames

After a very successful three-game road swing (2-0-1), the Calgary Flames head back to the comfort of the C of Red in hopes of continuing their climb on the Northwest Division ladder. The Flames are now only a single point behind the first-place Colorado Avalanche.

Miikka Kiprusoff stole the show in the last three games and with no back-to-backs coming up in the next week, he'll most likely get the call in all three contests.

Miikka Kiprusoff

"I can't say enough good things about him," Robyn Regehr said after Saturday's win in Toronto where Kiprusoff made 38 saves.

Calgary will be looking to bounce back from a poor team performance in Toronto. While they won 5-2 over the Leafs, the scoresheet is deceiving. The Flames were outshot 20-4 in the second frame and head coach Brent Sutter wasn't pleased with his team's effort for the majority of the game.

"I don't want to be negative because we had five out of six points so it's a very good road trip from that standpoint," said Brent Sutter. "But I wasn't happy the way we played the first period (in Buffalo) and I certainly wasn't pleased with the way we played the first two periods (in Toronto). Our goaltender played great . . . you can't keep relying on one guy to do that for you. It's going to burn you and that's why I'm putting up the flags as we speak."

The Flames will get Curtis Glencross back this week. The winger was suspended for three games for his hit on Ranger Chris Drury and missed out on the entire eastern road trip. In 15 games, Glencross has tallied four goals and six points.

Flames vs. Avalanche, Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. MST at the Pengrowth Saddledome, Rogers Sportsnet West & The FAN 960

After a red-hot start to the season, the Colorado Avalanche finally appear to be cooling off. The visiting Vancouver Canucks thumped the Avalanche on Saturday night by a score of 8-2 and chased the Avs star netminder Craig Anderson after two periods. It was Colorado's third straight loss. In that span, they've been outscored 16-7.

After the loss, Paul Stastny pointed to the mental aspect of the game being the biggest issue to overcome as they head out on the road.

"Sometimes it’s a mental game. Physically we can be there and mentally we are not there. You can make mental mistakes when you don’t know where you’re going and boom, boom, boom it’s one, two, three to nothing and that’s tough to come back from against a team like that (Vancouver)."

After the ugly affair, some news outlets said that Avs were hitting a wall now that they've reached the 20-game mark but the team doesn't see it that way at all.

"No, I don't think we're hitting a wall," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco told the Denver Post. "We've played a lot of good hockey up until that game. We've had some strong games."

Craig Anderson

While Anderson may have been pulled after 40 minutes, his play of late has still presented a challenge for the Avs opposition. He absolutely stymied the Flames the last time they met, only allowing two goals on 32 shots - many of which were excellent scoring opportunities - and won the game for his team.

"He's so cool and calm and collected in our net," Stastny told the Denver Post. "He can read the play so well. Sometimes it looks like he's nonchalant when that isn't it at all. You watch him in practice, and it looks like he's not trying. Then you can't score on him because he can read the stick. And then you know he's trying."

Anderson currently has a 2.42 GAA and a .926 save percentage. He leads the NHL in shots faced and saves with 622 and 576 respectively.

Stastny is leading the club in scoring with four goals and 18 points on the year. He's trailed by Wojtek Wolski who has potted 9 goals and has 16 points in his 20 games played. Wolski scored the game winner against the Flames in the two team's first meeting of the year back on Oct. 28.

The Avs have received some additional help on the back end with the return of Tom Preissing. The 30 year-old blueliner made his season debut on Saturday after being sidelined with a knee injury. The veteran defenseman didn't open the season the way he would have liked however, coming out of the loss with -4 rating in the 13:07 he played.

Flames vs. Blackhawks, Thursday, Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. MST at the Pengrowth Saddledome, TSN & The FAN 960

It appears that the Chicago Blackhawks are stockpiling points before heading out on a six-game road trip. The Hawks have won their last six games at home and have climbed to first place in the Central Division with an 11-5-2 record.

"We're doing well, we're collecting points," center John Madden told the Chicago Tribune. "To get points at home before we go on the long trip is crucial. We want to play well on the road as well, but we know if we can play well here, the road will take care of itself."

Goaltending was the Hawks biggest weakness as they went into the 2009-10 season but Cristobal Huet seems to be settling in. He's won three straight and has given his team an extra boost of confidence by making key saves to preserve leads. A prime example of one those key saves came on Friday. With the Leafs on a power play late in the third, Huet stole any of Toronto's momentum by stoning them when his club was down a man. By killing off that penalty, Huet handed his club the 3-2 win over the Leafs.

Jonathan Toews

The Hawks have definitely benefited from having Jonathan Toews back in the fold. The captain was sidelined with a concussion after a hard hit from Vancouver's Willie Mitchell. He missed six games and returned to the lineup on Nov. 9 when the Hawks defeated the Kings by a score of 4-1. Since his return, Toews has potted a goal and earned a helper and has created more stability for the Hawks forwards - Chicago has gone 3-0-0 with their captain back. Toews has two goals and seven points on the year.

"His presence, the way he plays the game, the way he competes every shift, that's why he's the captain," Madden told the Associated Press when asked about the captain. "He's not very vocal. He just leads by the way he plays, by example. It's contagious. If we just follow along and compete as hard as he does, everybody will be all right."

The Flames defense will have their hands full with the two Patricks - Kane and Sharp. Both have provided a lot of fire power for the Hawks and create havoc whenever they're on the attack. Kane currently leads the club in scoring with six goals and 18 points while Sharp trails him with six goals and 16 points.

Chicago will be without center Dave Bolland when they head into Calgary. The 23 year-old has been placed on the injured reserve after undergoing back surgery. Bolland has two goals and six points in his 13 games played this campaign. He has a goal and a helper against the Flames so far this season.

Calgary will be treating his game as a form of redemption for their last meeting with Chicago. Despite scoring five goals in the first period, the Flames allowed the Hawks to surge back and eventually win the game in overtime. Boyd, Nystrom, Iginla, Bourque and Jokinen scored for the Flames in the loss.

Flames vs. Kings, Saturday, Nov. 21 at 2:00 p.m. MST at the Staples Center, Rogers Sportsnet West & The FAN 960

Every season there's a team that suddenly seems to burst with talent and catches quite a few people by surprise with their prowess. This year, after the shock from the Avs flying start, it's the Los Angeles Kings. The boys from Hollywood are currently sitting second in the Pacific Division and are a surprising fifth place in the conference with 26 points. That being said, their play has slipped of late and they've got 5-3-2 in their last ten games and were handed a 7-0 loss at the hands of the Atlanta Thrashers last week.

Anze Kopitar

Anze Kopitar has been ripping it up all season and is leading the league in scoring with an astounding 31 points. He's also tied for top spot with Alex Ovechkin for most goals scored this campaign with 14. He's coming off a so-so season that, throughout a lot of ups and downs, saw him score 27 goals and 66 points. After being challenged by coaching staff to improve his conditioning he went to work over the summer and has come out in the best shape of his life.

"Quite honestly, last year, after 25 to 30 seconds of the shift, he was gassed," assistant general manager Ron Hextall told the Globe and Mail. "This year, he's a horse."

His teammates have also noticed the Slovenian winger's well-rounded game.

"His scoring is what's expected, but it's everything else he's doing that is taking him to the next level," Dustin Brown told the Associated Press. "He's a guy we've needed and we can't ask for much more."

Quietly lurking behind him on the stats sheet is the Flames former divisional foe Ryan Smyth. The veteran forward has already amassed nine goals and 23 points in his 21 games this season and shows no signs of slowing down. He's picked up three points in his last three contests, including a two point outing against the Hurricanes.

Starting netminder Jonathan Quick rebounded in fine fashion after being pulled in the 7-0 loss to the Atlanta by being named the first star in the Kings 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. Quick's play of late has been shaky but he looked up to par in the afternoon tilt with the Lightning. Despite the fine outing, the coaching staff are looking for a bit more concentration in his upcoming games.

"He’s not on top of it right now," said Hextall. "He’s doing things that are uncharacteristic of him, and he’s got to get back to basics and really get his focus back ... In saying that, there are times through the year, as a goalie, as a defenseman and as a forward, when you’re going to go through rough times. Now, it’s obviously a hell of a lot more visible when you’re a goaltender than any other position. But he needs to get refocused."

Quick has a .899 save percentage and a 2.66 GAA. He's 11-6-2 so far this year. Depending on his performance over the next week, he's expected to be in net against the Flames on Saturday.

This is the first of a four-game season series between the Flames and the Kings.

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