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Flames-Canucks Preview

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Flames-Canucks Preview

GAME: Calgary Flames (19-11-4) at Vancouver Canucks (20-10-4).

TIME: Friday, 10 p.m. EST.

The Vancouver Canucks are starting to feel like visitors at home.

After winning 13 of their first 14 at GM Place, the Canucks will try to end a three-game skid there when they meet the Calgary Flames in the first of two straight home games against their Northwest Division rival.

Vancouver, which holds a slim two-point lead over Calgary for the division lead, is just 5-8-3 against the Northwest.

The Flames have won three straight in the series and are 15-6-2-1 in its last 24 road games against Vancouver.

Vancouver is coming off a 7-6 loss Wednesday to Edmonton, allowing the Oilers to move into a tie atop the Northwest. The seven goals allowed were a season high and Vancouver coach Marc Crawford expressed concern after his team lost four one-goal leads.

"Of course it's alarming, we wouldn't be human if we weren't a little upset about this," Crawford said. "We were far too sloppy and we didn't play with the urgency we needed. We got what we deserved tonight."

Leading scorer Markus Naslund had an assist to extend his points streak to four games. Naslund has 26 goals - the most against any opponent - and 56 points in 57 games against the Flames.

The Flames have lost consecutive games for just the fourth time this season. Calgary squandered two-goal leads in each, the first in a 5-4 loss Monday to Edmonton in which they led 4-2 in the second period and allowed three unanswered goals.

In a 5-2 loss Wednesday to the Los Angeles Kings, Daymond Langkow and Jarome Iginla scored to give the Flames a 2-0 lead in the first, but the Kings tallied the last five unanswered goals - four in the third period - to put the game away.

Calgary coach Darryl Sutter wasn't thrilled with his team's effort.

"The top end of our team is not playing very well right now," Sutter said. "There is a focus or purpose issue with some of our top players right now and its affecting our ability to play 60 minutes."

Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff made just 13 saves in his second subpar outing in a row. Kiprusoff has given up nine goals in his last two starts after allowing eight goals in his previous seven.

Kiprusoff withdrew his name from Finland's Olympic team on Thursday, citing advice from doctors to rest a hip injury. He has inflammation and will use the time during the Olympics to rest.

Kiprusoff is 10-6-0 with a 1.96 goals-against average against the Canucks in his career.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 22): Flames - 42 points, 3rd place, 2 PB, Northwest Division. Canucks - 44 points, 1st place (tied), Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Flames - Iginla, 14 goals, 15 assists and 29 points; Jason Wiemer, 58 PIM. Canucks - Naslund, 18 goals and 38 points; Henrik Sedin, 22 assists; Wade Brookbank, 63 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 22): Flames - Power play: 15.9 percent (33 for 207), 19th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.7 percent (172 for 208), tied for 13th. Canucks - Power play: 18.1 percent (42 for 232), 15th. Penalty killing: 82.1 percent (170 for 207), tied for 16th.

GOALTENDERS: Flames - Kiprusoff (16-10-4, 5 SO, 2.23 GAA); Philippe Sauve (3-1-0, 2.32). Canucks - Alex Auld (12-7-2, 2.86); Maxime Ouellet (0-0-1, 4.69).

SEASON SERIES: Flames, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 7; Flames, 4-3. At Calgary, Alberta, Dion Phaneuf scored the game-winner with 2:21 left and added two assists as the Flames rallied with three goals in the third period.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Flames - 7-8-2 on the road; Canucks - 13-2-2 at home.


Associated Press
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