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Flames return home to host struggling Wild

by Matthew Mankiewich

WILD (21-14-6) at FLAMES (18-19-5)

TV: CBC, FS-North (HD)

LAST 10: Minnesota 1-6-3, Calgary 4-5-1

Season Series: Three games out of the intra-divisional six are in the books, the last two were wins for the Flames, including a 2-1 home win on Dec. 20. Historically, the Flames 21-6-6 against the Wild at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Big Story: Both teams are in deep slumps, the Wild having dropped 10 of their last 11 games, the Flames losers of five in a row and returning home from a disastrous road trip that ended with a 9-0 demolition at the hands of the Bruins in Boston on Thursday. The Flames, at least, have a four-game homestand to look forward to -- they've won five in a row and are 7-0-1 in their last eight at home. The Wild have nine road games coming up in their next 12, but that's much less of an issue than a near-total offensive shutdown; they've scored one goal or less in seven of their last 11 and have just four goals in six straight losses on the road, a stretch that comes on the heels of a franchise-record seven-game road winning streak.

Team Scope:

Wild: The Wild are still the sixth seed in the West, but Colorado and Dallas lead a pack of teams breathing down their necks. Just to give an idea of how far they've fallen, they were solidly at the top of the NHL on Dec. 11, winners of seven straight, five points up on the second-place Blackhawks and even four up on the then-Eastern top seed Flyers. Three weeks later, they're right back in the middle of the Western Conference free-for-all -- and any further extension of futility likely to push them out of a playoff spot.

The Wild went into the Rogers Arena in Vancouver looking to take a couple points back from the Canucks' Northwest Division lead and snap a 10-game losing streak there. They were quickly snuffed out by Roberto Luongo and the Sedin twins to the tune of a 3-0 loss -- Luongo's third straight shutout against Minnesota.

"We've got to find a way all over the ice to execute better to find a way to get the puck in their end and hold it in their end more so we don't spend so much time defending," Kyle Brodziak said to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

They'll look for whatever is missing in their game in the woods of Alberta, as the team takes a side trip to Banff for some bonding and practice time.

Flames : In retrospect, maybe they should have seen it coming the night before, when the Bruins scored three third-period goals to pull away from the Devils in a 6-1 win. Realistically, though, no one expected to see what happened to the Flames on Thursday -- they were caught flatfooted early en route to the 9-0 flattening in TD Garden.

"They're a very good team, but we didn't push them off of one puck - none of us," said Jarome Iginla in the Calgary Herald. "They pretty much just grabbed every puck and they were skating. We gave them part-the-seas down the middle on our goalies."

Who's Hot: Flames defenseman T.J. Brodie somehow managed an even plus/minus rating against the Bruins despite playing almost 25 minutes. Fellow defenseman Chris Butler was on the other extreme with a minus-7 on the evening, the worst night for any NHL player since Doug Wilson was minus-7 with the Sharks in a 13-1 loss to the Flames on Feb. 10, 1993. … Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu has been shut out the last two games, which ended a nine-game points streak.

Injury Report: Wild winger Guillaume Latendresse (concussion) remains out with lingering symptoms. Jarod Palmer (upper body) is on injured reserve as is Clayton Stoner (groin). … For the Flames, defenseman Scott Hannan left the Boston game in the second period with an upper-body injury. Derek Smith (ankle) is still weeks away, as is backup goalie Henrik Karlsson (hamstring). Matt Stajan (ankle) and David Moss (foot) are out indefinitely, while Mark Giordano (hamstring) hopes to start skating soon. Alex Tanguay (upper body) is still day-to-day. Defenseman Brett Carson (back) is in the minors on a conditioning assignment.

Stat Pack: Butler had a bad night, but Jay Bouwmeester has had a bad week, going a combined minus-13 over the Flames' five losses and was minus-5 in two of those games. The 9-0 loss was the most lopsided since the Flames lost 10-1 to Edmonton on Nov. 26, 1996. … Iginla is still at 499 goals, but he is the all-time scoring leader against the Wild with 33 in 64 games. … Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom has allowed 10 goals in his last three away starts and was replaced in the first period by Josh Harding in the Wild's last meeting with the Flames on Nov. 27, but had back-to-back shutouts in his previous two starts in Calgary. … Miikka Kiprusoff in 7-0-1 in his last eight starts at home -- a good sign considering that's where the Flames play 24 of their remaining 40 games.

Puck Drop: "You can't wave a magic wand or anything - it's getting back to basics. It was everything bad you could imagine out there. It's Game, what, 42? So, if my math is good, we have 40 games left. So there's lots of time. We have to learn from this. It was embarrassing for everyone. But it turns around quick and we're playing a good team Saturday." -- Bouwmeester in the Herald after the Flames' loss to the Bruins

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