The Flames are 9-6-1 when playing at the Pengrowth Saddledome this season. That's not bad considering they've picked up 19 of their 44 points while skating on home ice but they've lacked consistency when playing in front of the C of Red. After Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Nashville Predators, captain Jarome Iginla pointed to the team pressing too hard for a big goal when they need to be focusing on the things that have made them successful this season - the little details.
"We’re just in a bit of a rut," sighed Jarome Iginla. "We’ve got to stop pressing. Stop pushing. The last few games, we’ve had chances to win games in the third period and just haven’t found a way to put them away."
One bright spot from Saturday's loss was Iginla's two tallies. After a hot November, the Flames skipper was held without a goal in December until Saturday afternoon. His 18th and 19th goals of the year were extraordinarly timely, drawing the Flames even and then pushing them ahead by a goal. Despite the great performance, Iginla was more concerned about the team's overall efforts and not personal stats. He wants his team to follow a simple game plan in order to get themselves out of the rut they've found themselves in - simple, honest hard work.
"We have to work our way out of it," he asserted firmly.
Flames vs. Blues, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 7:30 p.m. MST at the Pengrowth Saddledome, TSN & The FAN 960
The St. Louis Blues will not be happy campers when they pull into the C of Red on Wednesday. After defeating the Flames last Tuesday, they thought their woes at home were turning around. Then the Tampa Bay Lightning came to town. Dubbed as "must-win" by players, fan, and the coaching staff, the Lightning thumped the Blues 6-3 on Friday and sent the boys from St. Louis out on their road trip on a sour note.
"We let a lot of people down. Our fans and our ownership and our management that has put trust in us as a team," head coach Andy Murray told the assembled media. "That's tough to accept."
A big problem for the Blues has been their lack of offense. They've won two of their last five but both of those victories were decided by a single goal. They've been outscored 18-10 in those five contests and haven't been able to keep the momentum going after scoring a goal. The Lightning scored quickly after all three of the Blues tallies, prompting Murray to blast his team.
"It shouldn't happen," Murray told St. Louis Today. "We get a couple of big goals and we gave up a goal right on the next shift. Bottom line is, it shouldn't happen."
Offensively, the Blues are being led by Team Canada hopeful Brad Boyes. The 27 year-old has potted eight goals and 21 points in 33 games this year. He has five point in his last five outings.
|Erik Johnson |
Trailing him is youngster Erik Johnson, the 21 year-old defenseman that is poised to be the future of the St. Louis blueline. He missed all of last season due to a freak golf cart incident that required surgery, the former first overall draft pick has lived up to all expectations this campaign. He has four goals and 21 points and is a +1 on a team that has given up a ton of goals this season.
"For the most part I wanted to use it as a motivator to make myself better," Johnson said about his accident. "As tough as it was sitting out, I think I've learned a lot. I definitely appreciate the game a lot more."
Johnson is expected to suit up with the US Olympic Team in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. In addition to likely being named to his national team, his agent is currently in talks with the Blues to extend his contract. Both sides are reportedly looking a long-term deal that would keep the superstar defenseman a Blue for quite some time. Johnson doesn't want to let the talks detract from his game so he's put off thinking about it and has left the work up to his agent.
"I’m not thinking about (the contract) at all," Johnson told St. Louis Today. "I’m just worried about playing well and that will all take care of itself. If you can get it out of the way, that’s fine. But if it doesn’t, it’s not something that I’m overly concerned about."
This is the third time the Flames and Blues have met this season. They've split the first two contests and will meet again for a final time on January 25, 2010.
Flames vs. Canucks, Sunday, Dec. 27, 6:00 p.m. MST at the Pengrowth Saddledome, Rogers Sportsnet West & The FAN 960
In the tight Northwest Division, the Flames and the Avalanche have maintained their dominance all season but the Vancouver Canucks are really pushing to catch up with their rivals. They've gone 6-4-0 in their last ten, hit 40 points on the season and have climbed to within four points of the Flames with their 3-2 win over the Capitals on Friday night.
|Mason Raymond |
Mason Raymond has been flying high lately, potting two goals against the Capitals on Friday and bringing his scoring total up to 10 goals and 24 points. Mason has seven points in his last five tilts and is third in team scoring. His confidence is through the roof these days so expect him to be an offensive threat on Sunday.
"Confidence is a funny thing," Ryan Kesler "When you have it you feel good and it s effortless out there. Mase is playing good, were using our speed to our advantage and Mase is capitalizing on his scoring chances."
Henrik Sedin leads all Canucks in scoring with 15 goals and 44 points on the year. He was expected to drop off offensively when his twin Daniel was sidelined with a foot injury but the winger flourished. Henrik's ability to rise above adversity helped keep the Canucks in the playoff picture and he made up for his brother's absence by scoring far more goals than anyone could have expected. He's been hot lately, notching eight points in his last five games.
The Canucks may have some extra help on the blueline. Alex Edler has missed five games with a shoulder injury sustained on Dec. 5 against the Predators. He's practicing with the team and has been feeling good but wants to cautious about his return date.
"You don't get hit in practice like you do in a game," Edler told the assembled media on Friday morning, who leads all Canuck defensemen in points with 19. "I have to get the strength back fully. It's not an injury you want to rush. You don't want to come back and get injured again. I want to make sure I'm good to go before I play again."
Roberto Luongo had a shaky start but has rounded into his typical form. He's currently sporting a 2.40 GAA and a .917 save percentage. He's 16-11-2 in his 28 games this campaign.
This is the third meeting between the two clubs. The Flames won the first two by the score of 5-3. The next time these two divisional rivals will meet is Jan. 9 in Vancouver.