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Flames, Panthers continue battles for playoff berths

by Brian Hunter
FLAMES (28-21-8) at PANTHERS (24-23-9)

Last 10: Calgary 2-6-2; Florida 6-3-1

Season Series:
This is the only meeting of the 2009-10 season between these teams. Stephen Weiss scored the only goal of the shootout as Florida won 3-2 in Calgary in the most recent matchup on Dec. 12, 2008. Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun made 35 saves and denied all three attempts he faced in the shootout. Rene Bourque scored twice in defeat for the Flames.

Big Story: Calgary captain Jarome Iginla plays in his 1,000th NHL game on Friday. The 14-year veteran was actually a first-round draft pick by Dallas who was then traded for Joe Nieuwendyk before he ever played a game for the Stars. Since then, he has led the Flames to six playoff berths, including a run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2004. Iginla has 433 goals and 903 points in his career.

"It's one of those things that I've been very blessed to play in the league for 13 years and to get to play in Calgary the whole time," he said. "When I started I didn't think about (1,000 games). You are just trying to make it and stick with the team. As the years go by, the games add up.

"They go by so quickly. I think of all the different players I got to play with, different groups, different coaches. It's pretty neat. I feel very blessed. I can't believe how quickly it has gone."

Team Scope:

It seems as though the personnel has been changing on a daily basis for Calgary, which made big trades on consecutive days earlier this week. Now the dust has settled and newcomers Niklas Hagman, Matt Stajan, Jamal Mayers, Ian White, Ales Kotalik and Christopher Higgins can begin to concentrate on acclimating themselves to their new teammates and helping the Flames try to secure a Western Conference playoff berth. They beat the Hurricanes 4-1 on Wednesday, behind a hat trick by Curtis Glencross, and currently tied with Detroit for eighth.

"It's something I'll never forget," said Glencross, who has 14 goals this season. "It's nice to get that feeling again."

Over in the Eastern Conference, Florida can move into a three-way tie with Philadelphia and Tampa Bay for the final two playoff berths by winning Friday. The Panthers have had three days off since being blanked 3-0 by the Ducks on Monday. They have scored only nine goals in their last eight games, managing a respectable 4-3-1 record over that stretch thanks solely to the outstanding play of Vokoun, the NHL's third star for January.

"We've just got to find a way to score some goals," defenseman Bryan McCabe told the Florida Sun Sentinel. "We can't depend on [Vokoun] to stop everything every night. This team's got to dig down and give him some support once in a while, bail him out. We've got to play a lot more desperate than we did."

Who's Hot:
Stajan scored his first goal for the Flames on Wednesday and has two goals and two assists over his last four games. … Vokoun went 8-4-2 in January with a 1.49 goals-against average and .956 save percentage.

Injury Report:
Calgary forwards David Moss (shoulder), Nigel Dawes (leg) and Craig Conroy (knee) are all on injured reserve. … Florida forward Nathan Horton is expected to miss the next month with a broken left tibia.

Stat Pack:
The Flames are 7-2-1 this season against teams from the East and 2-0-0 when playing an opponent from the Southeast Division. … Vokoun continues to be busy in net for the Panthers, who allow a League-high average of 34.1 shots per game.
Puck Drop:
Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester returns to Florida, which traded him during the offseason after deciding it would be unable to re-sign him to a new contract.

"It was tough to see him go because he was a good teammate and one of my good buddies, but that's part of the business," Weiss told the Sun Sentinel. "We'll still be buddies even though we're not on the same team anymore."

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