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Big points at stake as Flames host Wild

by Matthew Mankiewich /
WILD (13-13-4) at FLAMES (14-15-3)

TV -- CBC (HD), FS-N (HD)

Last 10 --
Minnesota 3-5-2; Calgary 5-4-1

Season series -- Three in the books already, three to go between two Northwest Division rivals a point apart in the standings. The Wild took the series opener at home, a 2-1 squeaker, but the Flames have prevailed in the two matchups since. They complete a home-and-home Monday at Xcel Energy Center.

Big story --
Forget the standings -- 13th and 14th place in the Western Conference mean a mere four of five points out of a playoff spot, and no one knows that more than Calgary, which finally put two wins together after failing to do so for more than a month and a half. Minnesota continues to have trouble scoring, and while teams like Nashville have proven one can get away with that if the defense is tight enough, there's not much margin for error.

Team scope:

Wild -- The Wild continue to find odd ways to lose games. With the score tied 1-1 in the second period against the Senators on Thursday, Kyle Brodziak scored to give the Wild a 2-1 lead. Unfortunately, there was one problem. The Wild had too many men on the ice and Brodziak was the extra man, taking a feed from the man he was supposed to replace on the line change, Mikko Koivu. Ottawa scored on the ensuing power play and the momentum shifted away, never to come back.

"I jumped on the ice early," Brodziak said afterward to the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. "It's one of those things that I wish I had back.

"We have to get better at knowing what kind of team we are, and playing that (way) for a full 60 minutes."

Flames -- It took them long enough, but the Flames finally strung two wins together, beating the Blue Jackets in overtime and the Maple Leafs by a more convincing 5-2 score.

"It's been a long time since we won a couple of games in a row," Olli Jokinen said. "The pattern the last 10 or 15 games is we play a good game and the next day, we don't show up.

"Our goal is to put ourselves in striking position before Christmas. We've got four more games to go."

Who's hot -- Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff has won five of his last six home contests, one of those a 3-0 win over the Wild on Nov. 29. He has a career record of 16-2-2 with a 1.68 goals-against average at home against the Wild. Jarome Iginla's point streak is now at 10 games with an assist on Thursday. Jokinen has scored three times in his last four games.

Injury report --
Wild forward Matt Cullen missed his third game in a row, but may be close to returning and traveling with the team to Calgary. … Flames defenseman Steve Staios remains out since injuring his ribs Dec. 5.

Stat pack --
A goaltending controversy has taken root in Minnesota partially because Niklas Backstrom's numbers have begun to taper off. In six starts since he won 2-1 in overtime in Anaheim, his save percentage has declined from .938 to .914 and his goals-against average has jumped from 1.91 to 2.75. He may be fighting for his job most nights with his 1-4-1 record in his last six starts, but against the Flames he's 2-0-0 with a 0.74 GAA.   

Puck drop --
"We've done some really good things here in our last two-and-a-half (to) three weeks where we've played some pretty good hockey. Our play has been solid and we just have to continue to build on it."  -- Flames coach Brent Sutter on the team trying to build on a two-game winning streak

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