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Flames-Canucks Preview

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Flames-Canucks Preview

GAME: Calgary Flames (25-12-4) at Vancouver Canucks (22-14-5).

TIME: Saturday, 10 p.m. EST.

Calgary goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff may want to rethink advice he was given to withdraw his name from the Finland's Olympic team roster given his recent stellar play.

Kiprusoff will likely be in net as the Flames try to extend their Northwest Division lead over Vancouver when they meet the Canucks at GM Place.

The runner-up for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goalie in 2003-04 when he led the Flames to the Stanley Cup final, Kiprusoff cited doctor's orders Dec. 22 when he withdrew his name from Finland's Olympic team to rest an inflamed hip.

"It is in the best interest of the Calgary Flames that I use this opportunity to ensure I am totally recovered for the NHL playoff drive," Kiprusoff said in a statement. "I have always been very proud to represent my country in international competition and I'm disappointed that I will not be joining them at the Olympics in Italy."

Kiprusoff has reeled off six straight wins since his announcement, including a 27-save effort Friday in a 1-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs for his NHL-leading sixth shutout.

"That's telling of how our team plays, we've been doing a good job in our end all season," said Kiprusoff, who also bettered the single-season franchise record of five shared by Dan Bouchard, Fred Brathwaite, Roman Turek, and Phil Myre.

Kiprusoff, who started his current streak with wins Dec. 23 and 26 in Vancouver, is 4-0 with a 2.21 goals-against average this season against the Canucks.

If he starts, Kiprusoff can match a career-best seven-game winning streak he compiled from Nov. 1-16.

While the Flames have allowed a Western Conference-low 102 goals, they are also looking for some scoring punch. Their 109 goals scored are ahead of only Chicago (105), St. Louis (103) and Columbus (85).

Jarome Iginla, who has averaged 42 goals the last three seasons, has just five in his last 20 games and a team-high 16 overall.

Vancouver went 1-3 on a recently completed road trip with a 3-2 win Thursday over the woeful Chicago Blackhawks.

Rookie goaltender Alexander Auld made 26 saves, and Jarko Ruutu scored on a penalty shot with 2:02 to play as the Canucks handed Chicago its ninth straight loss.

"It's huge," Auld said. "We kind of looked at it as a must-win. We had to come in here and really work as hard as we could and just focus on our game and not worry about who we were playing."

In his first nine home starts this season, Auld was 8-1-0 a 2.21 GAA. Since then, he has struggled, going 1-2-2 with a 3.92 GAA.

He is 0-3-1 with a 2.97 GAA in four games against the Flames this season.

STANDINGS: Flames - 54 points, 1st place, Northwest Division. Canucks - 49 points, 3rd place, 5 PB, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Flames - Iginla, 16 goals and 32 points; Andrew Ference, 17 assists; Darren McCarty and Jason Wiemer, 65 PIM. Canucks - Markus Naslund, 22 goals and 46 points; Todd Bertuzzi, 27 assists and 70 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Flames - Power play: 17.1 percent (41 for 240), 16th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.8 percent (202 for 247), 17th. Canucks - Power play: 18.3 percent (50 for 273), 12th. Penalty killing: 82.5 percent (207 for 251), 14th (tied).

GOALTENDERS: Flames - Kiprusoff (22-10-4, 6 SO, 2.26 GAA); Philippe Sauve (3-2-0, 0, 2.62). Canucks - Auld (14-10-3, 0, 2.89); Maxime Ouellet (0-1-1, 0, 4.39).

SEASON SERIES: Flames, 4-0.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 26, 2005, Flames, 2-1. At Vancouver, British Columbia, Kiprusoff finished with 16 saves and Robyn Regehr scored the tie-breaking goal with 11:26 to play for the Flames. Anson Carter scored the lone Canucks goal.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Flames - 9-8-2 on the road; Canucks - 14-3-3 at home.


Associated Press
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