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Ducks can tie Flames in West standings with win

by Matthew Mankiewich
DUCKS (29-24-7) at FLAMES (29-23-9)

Last 10 -- Anaheim 6-4-0; Calgary 3-4-3

Season series --
It's the first visit to Calgary this season for the Ducks, who have been making themselves comfortable at home with a franchise-record 11th straight win, 3-2 over Edmonton on Wednesday. The two teams have met twice already, both at the Honda Center, both one-goal wins for the Ducks. That makes it four in a row and seven of eight for the Ducks against the Flames, the last six games decided by one goal.

Big story -- The Ducks are almost there. Dead last in the Western Conference as late as Dec. 18, they're a mere two points behind the Flames, who have tumbled from the top of the Northwest Division to a tenuous eighth place.

Team scope:

Ducks -- Things must be going well when a team allows two shorthanded goals to the last-place team in the League and wins anyway. Bobby Ryan countered the two Edmonton goals on Wednesday with a pair of his own and Todd Marchant redirected a James Wisniewski slap shot to seal the deal, handing the Oilers their 11th straight road loss to go with the Ducks' 11 wins at home.

Home sweet home turns now into a tough two-game trip through western Canada before the team splits up for the Olympics. A quick trip through Calgary and Edmonton presents a chance to pick up some extra points, but they won't come easy.

"We've got two tough ones now back-to-back in western Canada," Marchant said following Wednesday's game. "We have to play like we did against L.A. (in Monday's 4-2 victory), more so than the way we did tonight."

Flames -- The home fires aren't burning very brightly in Calgary these days. A 2-7-1 record in their last 10 games in the Pengrowth Saddledome goes hand-in-hand with the 15 of 19 they've lost since Jan. 5.

It all goes back to the sputtering Flames' offense. No team can win consistently generating 1.8 goals per game, as they have in that 19-game stretch.

They went to the trade market for help, adding at least three legitimate 20-goal threats in Niklas Hagman, Ales Kotalik and Chris Higgins, and in the eyes of coach Brent Sutter, the scoring chances are improving.

"The most important thing you have to look at is, are the quality scoring chances still there, and they have been," Sutter told the Calgary Herald. "I don't have an answer for it. I look at our overall team game, how we're playing and the quality scoring chances we're getting, the quality scoring chances we're keeping down."

Who's hot -- Corey Perry added an assist in the Edmonton game to keep his five-game point streak going. It also drew him even with team points leader Ryan Getzlaf with 57.

But the real hot hand in the Anaheim lineup is goalie Jonas Hiller, who has allowed two goals or less in six of his last seven starts and made a combined 72 saves in his last two wins.

Injury report --
The big question in Anaheim is whether Getzlaf (sprained ankle) can play this weekend and then in the Olympics. He tried it out in practice Friday in line rushes then left the ice for treatment. The prognosis, however, was optimistic and Getzlaf will try again in Saturday's morning skate.

"We'll see how tomorrow goes," he said. "That is the big test. We'll see how it reacts after I pushed it today."

Flames forwards Nigel Dawes (leg), Rene Bourque (shoulder) and David Moss (shoulder) have been skating in practice, with Dawes shooting for a Saturday return.

Stat pack --
Miikka Kiprusoff has been feeling the pinch from the Flames' sluggish offense, going 4-9-4 since Jan. 5 despite a 2.36 goals-against average. That's just about as good as Hiller's GAA since Jan. 3 at 2.34, but the Ducks have gone 13-5-0 in that time frame with Hiller starting all but one of those games. … Flames fourth-liner Eric Nystrom hasn't scored since Nov. 14, a total of 42 games.

Puck drop -- "We're trying, we're trying … it's not like we're not trying. Scoring is the hardest thing in the League to do and that's why there's so few elite players who can do it regularly. We just have to keep throwing everything at the net." – Nystrom, to the Calgary Herald, on the Flames' scoring woes.

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