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Flames start off road trip by challenging Wild

by Brian Hunter
FLAMES (6-6-0) at WILD (5-4-2)


Last 10:
Calgary 5-5-0; Minnesota 5-3-2

Season Series: First of six meetings this season between these Northwest Division rivals. The Wild owned the 2009-10 season series, winning five times. Niklas Backstrom was 3-1-0 in four decisions, while Guillaume Latendresse and Chuck Kobasew scored 3 goals apiece. Jarome Iginla led the Flames with a hat trick in their lone victory, 5-2 on March 7.

Big Story: Calgary will attempt to re-establish some positive momentum on the road, after finishing up a five-game homestand with three-straight losses. The Flames lost close games that were high-scoring (6-5 to Colorado) and low-scoring (2-1 to Detroit), and another where almost nothing went right (a 7-2 drubbing at the hands of Washington).

"We have to regroup. There's no other way we go about it," forward Brendan Morrison said Thursday. "We've now lost three in a row and that's concerning to us. We can't sit here and feel sorry for ourselves. We have to regroup and we've got to get on with it."

Team Scope:

Flames: A three-game winning streak culminating with victories over the Sharks and Oilers to begin the homestand has long since been forgotten and Calgary is back to square one in defining where its season is headed. After giving up 17 goals in their previous three games, the Flames tightened up defensively in their most recent loss to the Red Wings, but couldn't get the big goal. They finished 1-for-7 on the power play and wasted a late four-minute advantage.

"We're moving the puck around," forward Matt Stajan told the Calgary Herald. "It's just about getting more shots to the net and battling for those rebounds. There's times when the puck is right there, and we just can't get our stick on it.

"It's just about bearing down, finding that puck and getting an ugly rebound."

Wild: Backstrom was in top form Tuesday night against San Jose, and Minnesota needed him to be. His countryman, Antero Niittymaki, was nearly flawless in the opposite net for the Sharks, but the Wild finally solved him with 6:41 left in the second period on a power-play goal by Andrew Brunette. It's all they would get and Backstrom made it hold up with 36 saves in the 1-0 win, his first shutout of the season and the 20th of his NHL career.

"He was out on top of his crease making saves, gobbling up pucks and not giving up any rebounds," center John Madden said. "Backy was there to save the day."

Who's Hot: Alex Tanguay has 2 goals and 4 assists in the Flames' last six games. … Mikko Koivu (3-9-12) leads the Wild in points and has been held off the score sheet just once this season. Backstrom is 4-1-1 in his last six starts, allowing two goals or fewer each time. His .938 save percentage is fourth in the League.

Injury Report: Calgary defenseman Adam Pardy (shoulder) and forwards Daymond Langkow (neck), Ryan Stone (knee), Ales Kotalik (knee) and Raitis Ivanans (concussion) are all on injured reserve.

Minnesota forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard, whose last game was Oct. 3, 2009, has been skating with the team and is ready to begin a conditioning assignment as he works his way back from post-concussion syndrome. Defenseman Marek Zidlicky is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, while Latendresse was placed on injured reserve with a groin injury. Forward Antti Miettinen is out indefinitely due to a concussion.

Stat Pack: The Flames have scored the first goal in eight-straight games and have held a lead after the first period in their last seven, although they have just a 3-4-0 record to show for it. … The Wild recalled Matt Kassian, their second-round pick from 2005, from Houston of the AHL. Kassian has put up 3 goals, 10 points and 397 penalty minutes with the Aeros over parts of the last four seasons.

Puck Drop:
In a scheduling quirk, Calgary and Minnesota played four of their six games last season after March 1. This season, five of their six meetings will come prior to Christmas.

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