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Flames and Stars hope to end slides

by Matthew Mankiewich /

FLAMES (7-4-1) at STARS (6-3-5)

Last 10 -- Flames 6-3-1, Stars 5-3-2

Season series -- Dallas took the teams' initial meeting on Oct. 9, a night of firsts for them as five different players scored their first goals of the season and the Stars earned their first win of the season, 5-2 at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

Big story -- Both teams are coming off two-game slides, the Flames dropping the last two of a five-game homestand, 3-2 to the Northwest-leading Avalanche and 3-1 to the Red Wings, after taking the first three. Dallas suffered disappointing losses as well, a 6-5 shootout loss to the Panthers at home on Friday and a more-convincing 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Predators in Nashville the following night. Good news is on the horizon in the Big D, however, as the team returns to full strength.

Team scope

Flames -- The sudden drop-off in scoring production the last two games left coach Brent Sutter in not the happiest frame of mind. The solution? A dose of intense practice time, some of it leaving a mark or two -- like the black eye Jarome Iginla got on Monday.

"I got it battling," Iginla told the Flames' Web site. He wouldn't say which teammate he was battling with in practice on Monday. 

Sutter was very clear in his mission to get his team going again prior to the two-game trip which takes the Flames to St. Louis in a back-to-back. 

"There needs to be more aggression in our game," Sutter said. "I'm talking about just overall as far as battling and competing for things and competing for space on the ice and wanting to have the puck as a team, drawing more penalties.

"I'm not accustomed to coaching teams that don’t compete at a high level."

Some scrambling of the lines accompanied the challenging practices. seeing Olli Jokinen paired with Iginla and Eric Nystrom before David Moss moved up to left wing partway through Tuesday's practice.

Stars -- Coach Marc Crawford will have the luxury of a full lineup for Wednesday's game for the first time this season as Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen have been cleared to play. 

On the other hand, that means someone becomes the odd man out.

"On the forward position, we've got a lot of guys who are really playing well. They're making it difficult to make decisions. Somebody’s going to have to sit out the next game who doesn’t deserve to sit out," Crawford told the team's Web site. 

"I think on the other side of it, it’s not really that bad of a happening for the Stars," he continued. "It really does emphasize our depth, and I think our depth can be something that is such a strong characteristic of this club."

Who's hot -- Stars center Brad Richards began the season with a five-game point streak, was shut out a couple of games, then started another one. He has eight points in this latest tear, with two goals and six assists. Before dropping their last two, the Flames had outscored opponents 16-8 during the first three games of their homestand. 

Stat pack -- The only game Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff didn't play this season was the earlier matchup with the Stars. He's expected to make his eighth straight start Wednesday, but has a 6-10-2 record against Dallas.

Stars goalie Marty Turco sat out the last two games with flu-like symptoms but should be ready to put his 14-8-2-1 record and 1.79 goals-against against Calgary to the test. Goalie-on-goalie, Kiprusoff had the upper hand in their last two matches, winning 2-1 both times.

Injury report -- With the return of Turco, Lehtinen and Modano to active duty, Dallas is healthy for the first time this season. Calgary gets a clean bill of health as well.

Puck drop -- The Stars get a chance to see what their entire intact team is truly made of, while the Flames look to get their scoring groove back.

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