In spite of the team's lackluster performances against Minnesota and Colorado, Miikka Kiprusoff has been absolutely outstanding. The Finnish netminder has given the team a chance to win every night and his teammates recognize that. After playing some defensively solid hockey, the Flames have allowed more 30 shots on net in two straight games and that is something they want to remedy immediately.
"I think over the last couple years we’ve been up right around 32 or 33 shots and that’s just too many shots, too many chances," said Robyn Regehr. "For him, he’s a guy who plays a lot of games so the less shots you make him face, the better.
"He's been just outstanding for us so we need to make his job easier."
The Flames offense has lost a bit of steam lately and that's something the team is keenly aware of.
"We haven’t generated enough. No question. We’ll keep working at that. We have to be better," captain Jarome Iginla stated after Sunday's loss to Colorado. "We know we have to generate more, help Kipper out and play more time in their zone."
The power play has also been an issue. There has just a single power play marker in the last 24 opportunities.
"I don’t think we’re trying to be too fancy," Daymond Langkow said on Saturday. "We’re trying to keep it simple - just set up a shot, get to the net, try to get some screens and rebounds. Our power play needs to be better. At the start of the year, our power play was real good. You want to keep that going throughout the year, but that’s tough to maintain. But, obviously, we’re trying."
Flames vs. Blues, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 6:00 p.m. MST at the Scottrade Center, Calgary Flames PPV & The FAN 960
Just like the Flames, the Blues play a great road game. At home, it's a bit of a different story. They're 5-10-2 at the Scottrade Center and have lost their last four games on home ice.
"We need to play our road game at home," defenseman Mike Weaver lamented to St. Louis Today.
After a 5-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Friday, in which the Blues gave up five unanswered tallies, the team was put through the paces on the weekend. The coaching staff ran a couple of tough practices that focused on skating. Several drills were run without pucks, aiming to get the players to refocus their their energies on basic details.
|Erik Johnson |
"It was basic, but it got guys in the right positions and made guys think a little bit without the puck," defenseman Erik Johnson told St. Louis Today. "Without the puck, you focus on your assignments and where you’re supposed to be."
The team is expecting the next couple of days to be intense as their tilt with the Flames creeps closer.
"We actually got back in the room after and said, ‘You know what, we’re still not done . . . we haven’t repaid what we deserve,’ forward B.J. Crombeen said on Saturday morning. "Everyone in this room has been around long enough, has played hockey long enough, to know that we’re accountable for our actions and last night was unacceptable. Our play on home ice has been unacceptable all year. We’ve got to get back to ground zero, get working and try to focus on our next game."
Johnson is leading the Blues in scoring with four tallies and 21 points. He had two points against the Oilers on Friday. When asked about the 21 year-old's play this season, head coach Andy Murray said he thought the blueliner still had a lot of room for improvement.
"He can play better," said Murray, explaining that he thought Johnson's best play has yet to come. "He’s just scratching the surface of how good he can be."
Goaltending hasn't been an issue for Blues with starter Chris Mason posting a GAA of 2.44 and a .918 save percentage. Backup Ty Conklin has played well this season, going 5-3-1 with a GAA of 2.32 and a .931 save percentage.
The Blues will be without captain Eric Brewer. The veteran was injured on Nov. 25 and is expected to be out 2-4 weeks with back pain.
This is the second meeting between the two teams. The Flames came out with the 2-1 OT win on Nov. 5 when they paid their first visit to the Blues.
Flames vs. Kings, Thursday, Dec. 17, 7:30 p.m. MST at the Pengrowth Saddledome, TSN & The FAN 960
The Kings head into the Pengrowth Saddledome with a distinction not many thought the boys from Hollywood would have this season: owners of the top spot in the Western Conference.
The Kings passed their divisional rival, the Sharks, on Saturday with a 3-2 SO win over the Dallas Stars. As they go into the week, they're 21-10-3 with 45 points.
"Nobody in this room sees this as the finish line," defenseman Matt Greene told the Los Angeles Times. "It's up to the leaders in this room to make sure that doesn't happen, either. Our goal isn't to be competitive halfway through the year. It's to be in the playoffs and be in a good position going into the playoffs."
Justin Williams agrees and believes his team can play even better than the level they're currently at.
"We're where we want to be, but we feel we haven't reached our potential yet. That's our job, to go out and really dominate teams. We're playing decent, but we're not totally dominating, which I know we can."
|Jonathan Quick |
A big part of their success this season has been the play of young goaltender Johnathan Quick.
The 23 year-old has been a shining star for the team and is making a case to be inserted on the US Olympic team. He's 19-9-3 in his 31 games played and has posted a 2.60 GAA and a .903 save percentage. Quick has collected points in his past five games, winning four and falling once in overtime.
"There were probably some shots, earlier in the year, that he'd like to have back but he's been really outstanding lately," head coach Terry Murray told the Orange County Register.
Offensively, the Kings are being led by Anze Kopitar. With 16 goals and 37 points, he's fifth in the NHL in scoring. After slowing down a bit in November, the forward has got his game going again, potting two goals in his last three contests.
Los Angeles will be without forwards Ryan Smyth and Wayne Simmonds. Smyth suffered an upper-body injury earlier in the season and won't see any action until later in the month. Simmonds was injured on Saturday and will undergo surgery on Monday for a lower-body injury.
This is the third meeting between the Flames and Kings. They split their two games in California and will meet again for a final time on Dec. 30.
Flames vs. Predators, Dec. 19, 2:00 p.m. MST at the Pengrowth Saddledome, Rogers Sportsnet West & The FAN 960
After a slow start to the campaign, the Nashville Predators have been able to get themselves back into the playoff picture and are now challenging for top spot in the Central Division.
As of Monday, they are just four points behind the Chicago Blackhawks thanks to solid November and a decent start to December. The Predators are 5-3-2 in their last 10 contests, amassing 12 points in that span.
|Martin Erat |
Martin Erat has been one of the hottest Predators lately and that can be chalked up to some line shifting by head coach Barry Trotz. Since being moved to a line with Jason Arnott and Steve Sullivan, the winger has four goals in three games. In his 29 games this season, Erat has 10 goals and 18 points.
"They are great players and it's very easy to play with them,'' Erat told the Tennessean. ""They are always in the right spot and it's easy to find them. I know I'll get the puck back.''
Arnott leads the club in scoring with 11 goals and 20 points. The Preds captain has been hot lately, scoring four points in his last five outings and posting a +1 rating in that span.
In terms of goaltending, Nashville has received some great performances from starter Pekka Rinne. The 27 year-old has gone 13-6-2 this year, has a 2.61 GAA, a .909 save percentage and has picked up points in four of his last five games.
The Predators will most likely be without tough guy Jordin Tootoo on Saturday afternoon. He was hurt in Nashville's 3-2 OT loss to Detroit on Saturday. He was scheduled for an MRI on Sunday to determine the damage done to his foot.
"The doctor said he could see a little tweak,'' Tootoo told the Tennessean. "There's a lot of bones down there. Right now, I can't put any pressure on it.''
This is the first time the Predators have played at the Saddledome this season. The teams have met once this year when the Flames put together a 5-0 road victory.