WILD (30-27-4) AT FLAMES (30-23-9)
Last 10 -- Minnesota 6-4-0; Calgary 4-3-3
Season series -- This is the third of six meetings between the Northwest Division clubs. The Wild have taken the two previous contests: a 2-1 overtime win at Calgary on Dec. 11, 2009 and a 4-1 victory at XcelEnergyCenter on Jan. 6.
Big story -- Both clubs will play their first game since the NHL broke for a two-week hiatus to accommodate the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The Wild (64 points) have the opportunity to gain some ground on the Flames, who are ninth in the Western Conference with 69 points, one behind Detroit.
Wild -- Minnesota returns to NHL regular-season game action boasting two Olympic medal winners as forward Antti Miettinen and goalie Niklas Backstrom both captured the bronze medal for their native Finland on Saturday with a 5-3 win over Slovakia in Vancouver. Miettinen had one goal in six games, while Backstrom earned one win while serving mostly as the backup for the Flames' Miikka Kiprusoff.
The Wild had dropped two of their last three heading into the Olympic break and although they are only five points behind the Flames, they will still need to jump over five total teams in order to slip into the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. A positive point of note for Minnesota is that Backstrom has won three straight games over the Flames and only surrendered two goals on 76 shots over that span.
Flames -- Two Flames players also captured medals at the Olympic Games, with Kiprusoff garnering bronze for Finland and Calgary captain Jarome Iginla bringing home the gold to Team Canada with an assist on Sidney Crosby's overtime game-winning goal against Team USA on Sunday. Kipper won three of his five games played in the tournament, while Iginla led all Canadian players with five goals scored over six games played. But Kiprusoff is 0-2-1 with a 3.28 goals against average in his last three meetings with Minnesota.
In an effort to maintain some of their recently acquired talent, the Flames signed forward Matt Stajan to a multi-year contract on Monday.
Who's hot -- Martin Havlat had five points in his last five games for the Wild prior to the Olympic break. For Calgary, Iginla is in the midst of a three-game scoring streak (3-2-5).
Injury report -- Defenseman Clayton Stoner (hernia) and forwards Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) and Chuck Kobasew (sprained MCL/ACL) are on injured reserve for Minnesota. Flames forward Rene Bourque (shoulder) was skating in practice prior to the Olympic break and is hopeful to return to game action tonight.
Stat pack -- Despite being within striking distance of a playoff position, the Flames are above only the last-place Edmonton Oilers in average goals per game among Western Conference teams at 2.47.
Puck drop -- While the Olympics provided a welcome break for most of the NHL players, both teams have to get back to the business of making the playoffs. For a team like the Wild that's playing catch-up, a regulation win is a necessity. Fans should certainly expect an energetic playoff-like atmosphere at Pengrowth Saddledome.