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Flames try to break through against Wild

by Brian Hunter
FLAMES (31-24-9) at WILD (31-27-5)

Last 10 -- Calgary 5-4-1; Minnesota 5-4-1

Season series -- It's the fourth meeting of the season, and the Flames are still looking for their first victory. Minnesota is 3-for-3, including a 4-0 victory at Calgary on Wednesday. The Wild have outscored the Flames 10-2 in the three wins.

Big story -- Time is starting to run down on both teams as they try to wriggle their way into the top eight in the West. The Flames start a quick two-game trip after helping themselves mightily on Friday with a 5-3 win over New Jersey to stay one point behind eighth-place Detroit. Minnesota did the kind of thing a playoff hopeful can't do -- get less that two points in a game against a last-place team. The Wild got only one point in Edmonton on Friday when the Oilers won 2-1 in a shootout after Minnesota couldn't score during an overtime power play.

Team Scope:

Flames -- Calgary's five-goal outburst against the Devils was its biggest offensive night in five weeks and gave Miikka Kiprusoff some rare breathing room, Kiprusoff is among the NHL leaders with a 2.22 goals-against average, but the Flames are on the outside looking in at the playoffs because they've struggled to score all season long.

They're hoping Friday's splurge is the start of better things after a stretch in which they scored just seven times in five games.

"Obviously you're thinking about it. Especially when you're losing," said center Daymond Langkow, who ended a 21-game goal-scoring drought with the first goal on Friday. "You feel like you're not doing what you're supposed to be doing out there and then maybe you change your game a little bit and it just gets worse.”

Wild -- If Minnesota misses the playoffs by a point, it will rue Friday's loss to the Oilers, the NHL's last-place team. Scoring just once against the Oilers and giving Edmonton a chance to win in a shootout is no way to make the playoffs.

"There are a couple teams between us and eighth place so to play like we did was very disappointing," forward Owen Nolan said.

"We have to be better than that. There are no excuses. We just didn't play good hockey. We didn't play as well as we should have. We need every point we can get and we let one slip away."

Who’s hot -- Minnesota's Mikko Koivu has a goal and six assists in his last five games, and linemate Andrew Brunette is 3-2-5 in his last four. Goalie Niklas Backstrom has surrendered just one goal in 125 minutes since the Olympic break.

Injury report --
With some help from the Olympic break, both teams are as healthy as could be expected in early March. The only player who won't be available is Wild forward Derek Boogaard, who drew a two-game suspension for a knee-on-knee hit on Edmonton's Ryan Jones on Friday night.

Stat pack -- The Wild have won the last four meetings with the Flames, all with Backstrom in goal. He has stopped 103 of 105 shots in the four wins, with two shutouts. Kiprusoff has a 3.46 GAA in those losses after posting a 1.56 GAA in winning the previous five meetings.

Puck drop -- With five weeks left in the regular season and both of these teams on the outside looking in at the playoffs, neither can afford a loss. The Flames have to hope that Friday's big offensive night was a harbinger of better things to come, while the Wild must continue its dominance at the Xcel Energy Center, where they are 21-8-2.

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