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Flames-Thrashers Preview

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Following a rare off night at both ends of the ice, the Calgary Flames hope a matchup against one of the league's worst teams will get them back on track.

However, it comes in a place where they haven't won in nearly three decades, back when they called that city home.

Calgary goes for a road win over the only NHL team against which it doesn't have one, visiting the city where its franchise originated in a matchup with the Atlanta Thrashers on Sunday.

The Flames (39-20-6) spent their first eight NHL seasons in Atlanta before moving to Calgary in 1980. The arrival of the expansion Thrashers in 1999 finally sent the Flames back to their original home for NHL games, but their return trips haven't been good ones.

Calgary hasn't won one of those visits to Philips Arena, losing four and tying one. Last season's meeting there saw Ilya Kovalchuk's hat trick lift Atlanta to a 6-4 victory.

The Flames have won at least twice in every other current NHL city.

They had won six consecutive road games overall before falling flat in Friday night's 6-1 loss to Carolina. In the third stop on a season-high seven-game road trip and the second of games on back-to-back nights, the Flames only managed Jarome Iginla's goal with 3:49 remaining in their most lopsided loss since November.

"We weren't as ready as we should be," coach Mike Keenan told the Flames' official Web site after his team allowed three power-play goals.

Backup goalie Curtis McElhinney remained winless in 13 NHL appearances, and now it appears likely starter Miikka Kiprusoff will back in net.

Kiprusoff is 9-0-2 with a 2.35 goals-against average in his last 12 starts and has won six straight on the road with a 2.12 GAA. He leads all goaltenders in victories and now looks to reach 40 for the third time in four seasons after earning 39 in 2007-08.

Kiprusoff, who has started all but five of Calgary's games this season, has allowed a total of three goals in winning his only two career matchups with the Thrashers but has never played in Atlanta.

Despite Friday's performance, the Flames have scored 3.92 goals per game during a 9-2-2 stretch with Iginla contributing nine goals and nine assists in his last nine. He has six goals and five assists in the last five meetings with the Thrashers.

Olli Jokinen, acquired from Phoenix at Wednesday's trade deadline, could make a difference in breaking the Flames' jinx in Atlanta. Jokinen, who spent seven seasons in the Southeast Division with Florida, has 16 goals and 43 points in 49 career games against the Thrashers with six points in the past five.

The Flames will face an Atlanta defense that has given up 3.45 goals per game but comes off its second shutout of the season as Kari Lehtonen made 25 saves in a 2-0 victory over visiting Montreal on Friday night.

"He was awesome," Thrashers rookie Zach Begosian said. "If he hadn't been on, it could have been a different story."

It usually has been for Atlanta (24-35-6), which had given up at least three goals in each of its nine previous games. Lehtonen was 4-5-1 with a 3.38 GAA in his previous 10 starts.

Friday's performance, however, likely earned Lehtonen an eighth straight start. He's split two career meetings with Calgary, allowing four goals in each.

The Thrashers are 5-3-1 in their last nine while averaging 3.89 goals. Despite earning a league-low 26 points at home with a 12-18-2 record, Atlanta has won three of its last four at Philips but has needed its offense to outscore the opposition 14-10.

Kovalchuk has keyed the Thrashers' scoring outburst with 14 goals and 10 assists in his last 12 games, and Rich Peverley has five goals in his last five.

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