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Flames try to salvage road trip vs. East-leading Caps

by Brian Hunter
FLAMES (37-29-9) at CAPITALS (49-14-11)

Last 10: Calgary 5-5-0; Washington 6-1-3

Season series: This is the only meeting of the 2009-10 season between these teams. Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 30 shots to lead the Flames to a 2-1 win over the Capitals at the Pengrowth Saddledome in the most recent matchup on Oct. 21, 2008.

Big story: This is the finale of a three-game road trip for Calgary that may prove to be the undoing of its season. The Flames gave up a pair of third-period goals and lost 3-2 to the Islanders, a non-playoff team, then were blanked 5-0 by the Bruins on Saturday. Now, in order to avoid getting swept and pushed a step closer to elimination, they will have to beat the top team in the League.

Team Scope:

It was expected to be a battle between two teams desperate for points, but Boston -- clinging to one of the final two playoff berths in the Eastern Conference -- took advantage of its first three power-play opportunities to score goals and pound Calgary. Kiprusoff was pulled in the third period, but is likely to be back between the pipes Sunday with the Flames needing to put forth their best effort.

"We have to run the table now," captain Jarome Iginla said. "Other teams have done it in the past, run the table near the end. We need to put together five or six wins. It's literally all Game 7's for us now."

These next two weeks are essentially nothing more than a tune-up for Washington, which will wait and see who ends up finishing eighth in the East and becomes its first-round opponent in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Capitals have picked up at least one point in 13 of their last 14 games, though the Hurricanes have given them particular trouble. In three meetings over an eight-game stretch, Washington won 4-3 in overtime, then lost to Carolina 4-3 in overtime and 3-2 in a shootout in their most recent game on Thursday.

"We weren't ready to play," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It's safe to say that in the first 10 minutes we were leaving our poor goalie out to dry. I don't know if that happens when you play an emotional game the night before (a shootout win Wednesday against Pittsburgh). But I thought in the last two periods we picked it up pretty well."

Who's hot:
Eric Nystrom had four goals in five games and Nigel Dawes three goals in four games before they were shut out along with the rest of the Flames on Saturday.

Alexander Semin has goals in three straight games for the Capitals and Eric Fehr has six goals in his last 10 games. Jose Theodore still hasn't lost in regulation since Jan. 12, going 17-0-2 since then to emerge as the No. 1 goalie heading into the playoffs.

Injury report:
Calgary forwards Curtis Glencross (knee) and Christopher Higgins (foot) are day-to-day, while forward Daymond Langkow is out indefinitely with a neck injury suffered when he was hit by a puck last Sunday in Minnesota.

Washington forward Brooks Laich (cheekbone) and defenseman Shaone Morrisonn (dental) will miss Sunday's game. Forwards Boyd Gordon (back) and Scott Walker (knee) are day-to-day. Defenseman Milan Jurcina (sports hernia) is out indefinitely.

Stat pack: Flames defenseman Jay Bouwmeester extended the League's current longest iron-man streak to 417 games on Saturday. … Capitals defenseman John Carlson scored his first NHL goal Thursday in his 18th career game and also improved to plus-12, tied for second-best among rookies this season.

Puck drop:
Even an upset in Washington might not be enough to save Calgary's dimming playoff hopes, but it would help the Flames to keep believing for a few more days as they return home to face Phoenix on Wednesday.

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