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Flames return home for meeting with Wild

by John Kreiser /
WILD (23-18-5) at FLAMES (20-20-6)


Last 10 -- Minnesota 6-4-0; Calgary 5-2-3

Season series -- It's the sixth and final meeting of the season between the Northwest Division rivals. Minnesota has won three of the first five, including a home-and-home sweep on Dec. 18-19 in the last two meetings. The Wild has won nine of the last 12 games between the teams.

Big story -- The Wild is looking for a sweep of their two games in Alberta after beating the Oilers 4-1 in Edmonton on Tuesday. The Flames are back home after a 2-0-2 road trip that could have been better -- they lost 5-4 in overtime at Montreal on Monday after overcoming a 4-0 deficit. The other loss on the trip was 6-5 in a shootout at Carolina in a game the Flames had trailed 5-2.

Team Scope:

Wild -- Rookie goaltender Anton Khudobin, filling in for injured veterans Niklas Backstrom and Jose Theodore, is making it tough for the Wild to send him down. Coach Todd Richards singled him out for paise after the win at Edmonton, which came two days after he blanked Vancouver 4-0 for his first NHL shutout.

"The goaltender was great," Richards said. "He was the difference in the game. I think as a group in front of him, we didn't play very well, but he stood tall. … We would have liked to finish the game with a shutout, but our goalie was good."

Flames -- With four of their five games before the All-Star break at the Scotiabank Saddledome, the Flames know they have to take advantage if they hope to make up ground in the airtight Western Conference playoff race. Calgary enters the night next-to-last in the conference -- but just eight points behind eighth-place Chicago with a game in hand.

They kept themselves in the hunt with six of a possible eight points on the road.

"We've got to go home feeling good about ourselves," coach Brent Sutter said before boarding the plane from Montreal to Calgary. "There's some confidence in that room. We believe."

Who's hot -- Khudobin has allowed just one goal as the Wild won its last two games by a combined score of 8-1. … Calgary captain Jarome Iginla had a goal and an assist in Montreal and has 7 points in the Flames last five games. Olli Jokinen had 5 points, all assists, and a shootout winner on the four-game trip.

Injury report -- Minnesota has been without both regular goaltenders, Backstrom and Theodore. Backstrom (hip) was able to practice Monday and might be ready to return. Theodore (groin) also practiced Monday. … Flames defenseman Cory Sarich (foot) left midway through the loss in Montreal after blocking a shot but will try to play. Defenseman Steve Staios (ribs/shoulder) is getting closer to returning. Forwards Raitis Ivanans (head) and Daymond Langkow (neck) are on IR.

Stat pack -- Calgary's power play is just 2-for-33 against Minnesota in the last 10 meetings at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Backstrom is 7-1-1 in his last nine decisions against the Flames with a 1.22 goals-against average, a .958 save percentage, and two shutouts. … The Wild have lost the last six times in the second half of a back-to-back.

Puck drop -- The Wild aren't the only ones with some goaltending questions. Flames starter Miikka Kiprusoff was hooked again after allowing four goals on Monday, and rookie Henrik Karlsson blanked the Habs through the rest of regulation, enabling Calgary to get a point.

Sutter said he was "trying to change the momentum" and that the change "had nothing to do with Kipper's play." But he's been pulled in two of his last three starts, sandwiched around a solid effort in a 2-1 shootout win at Toronto on Saturday, and Karlsson is earning more playing time.

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