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Flames begin tough post-break stretch vs. Red Wings

by Brian Hunter
RED WINGS (33-16-1) at FLAMES (23-21-6)


Last 10:
Detroit 8-2-0; Calgary 5-4-1

Season Series:
Fourth and final meeting of the season. Calgary has won two of three, including a 3-2 win in the most recent matchup, Dec. 22 at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Red Wings defenseman Ian White has 2 goals and 5 points against his former team to lead all scorers, while Flames captain Jarome Iginla has 3 goals and 4 points in the series.

Big Story:
Minnesota comes out of the All-Star break holding down the eighth and final Western Conference playoff berth with 55 points, but Calgary is one of four teams within three points and in hot pursuit. The Flames have played the Red Wings tough, and are one of only three teams to have won a game at Joe Louis Arena this season. And despite leading the race for the Presidents' Trophy, Detroit is under .500 (13-14-0) on the road.

Team Scope:

Red Wings:
This is the continuation of a five-game road trip in which Detroit will have to start turning around its fortunes away from the Joe if it wants to hang on not only to the overall NHL lead, but first place in the Central Division. On the first stop prior to the break, the Red Wings got routed 7-2 by the Canadiens, falling behind 6-0 after 40 minutes. Jimmy Howard lasted just one period before he was pulled. Jiri Hudler scored twice within a six-minute span early in the third, but overall it was a game coach Mike Babcock couldn't wait to forget.

"I'm not going to watch any video of this, at all," he said. "I'm going to have a drink. Actually, it is what I'm going to do."

It's not an easy road ahead, as Calgary faces Detroit and Chicago to finish off a three-game homestand before hitting the road for three against Pacific Division foes. The Flames have to hope Iginla comes back energized from Ottawa, where he scored a goal and added a pair of assists in the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game. The offense was stymied in the Flames' final game prior to the break, a 1-0 loss to the Sharks. Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 26 shots, but a Benn Ferriero goal with 8:25 remaining proved decisive.

"We've talked a lot about our assertiveness of late," recently-acquired forward Mike Cammalleri said. "It's the National Hockey League so you've always got to give credit to your opponent as well, but at the same time, we'd like to make things harder on our opponent."

Who's Hot: Hudler, who scored only 10 goals last season after a year away in the KHL, now has 15 goals, tied for second on the Red Wings and just eight off his career high. Niklas Kronwall has 2 goals and 2 assists during a three-game points streak. … Kiprusoff is 2-1-1 over his last four starts for the Flames, allowing just five goals over that span and posting a .956 save percentage.

Injury Report: Detroit forward Patrick Eaves (jaw) is on injured reserve. … Calgary goaltender Henrik Karlsson (sprained MCL), defenseman Derek Smith (ankle) and forwards David Moss (ankle), Alex Tanguay (upper body) and Curtis Glencross (lower body) are on injured reserve.

Stat Pack:
With defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom sitting out last Tuesday due to the flu and having his consecutive games streak snapped at 213, the new ironman on the Red Wings is forward Justin Abdelkader, who has skated in 124 straight games. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson is one behind. Flames defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, meanwhile, is the all-time leader on defense, with 556 consecutive games played and counting.

Puck Drop:
While the baseball team made the big headlines in the past week with a mega-contract given to free agent Prince Fielder, it turns out Detroit expects great things from the Red Wings coming down the stretch. A recent poll conducted by the Detroit Free Press and local station WXYZ-TV found 43 percent of respondents picked the Wings as the next Detroit team that will win a championship. The Tigers followed at 25 percent.
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