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Hot Flames visit ice-cold Wild

by John Kreiser

FLAMES (25-12-5) at WILD (20-20-3)

Last 10 -- Calgary 6-3-1; Minnesota 4-6-0

Season series -- The Northwest Division rivals are meeting for only the second time this season, and the Flames are paying their first visit to the XcelEnergyCenter. The Wild won the first meeting this season, 2-1 in a shootout on Dec. 11. Minnesota has won the last two meetings -- but before that, Calgary had won 13 of the previous 15.

Big story -- The Flames have hit their stride. Tuesday's 3-1 win at Nashville was their fifth consecutive victory and moved them into first place in the division. In contrast, the Wild have dropped four in a row -- including Tuesday night's 4-1 loss at Chicago. Minnesota has scored only eight times in the four losses.

Team Scope:

Flames -- The Flames got some good news in Nashville -- Olli Jokinen and David Moss both ended long scoring droughts. Jokinen scored his eighth goal of the season and first since Dec. 9, while Moss' seventh goal of the season was his first since Dec. 3.

"As a group, we're not thinking about this guy hasn't scored," said center Daymond Langkow, whose empty-netter sealed the win. "We're just trying to play our game as a team. But yeah, it was good. Moss really goes to the net hard and having fun there for a few seconds and finally put it home. And Olli going to the net there for the rebound. Obviously big goals for us."

Wild -- With its offense struggling to find the back of the net, Minnesota has little room for error. Tuesday's 4-1 loss to Chicago was a case in point. Goalie Josh Harding had the puck checked away from him midway through the second period -- and seconds later Marian Hossa scored to put the Hawks ahead to stay.

"It was a 1-1 game," Minnesota coach Todd Richards said. "I thought Josh got hit on the play and it ends up as a turnover play in our zone, and you can't give Hossa that much room."

Who's hot -- Though he didn't score Tuesday, Minnesota's Mikko Koivu has 8 points in his last seven games. … Calgary goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff has allowed just four goals in winning his last four games. He has won 10 of his last 13 starts against the Wild, though he's dropped the last two.

Injury report -- For the Flames, defenseman Cory Sarich (undisclosed) is on injured reserve. Minnesota forward Owen Nolan sat out the loss in Chicago with an undisclosed injury.

Stat pack -- Kiprusoff has allowed one goal or fewer in 11 of his last 17 starts; he's surrendered exactly one in each of the last four. … Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom has a 1.60 goals-against average in 10 career home starts against Calgary, but has taken the loss in five of them. However, Backstrom's.716 career home winning percentage and 2.11 GAA at the Xcel Energy Center are the best in the League among goalies that have made at least 56 starts on home ice since 2006-07, when his career began.

Puck drop -- Calgary hasn't won six in a row since Oct. 21-Nov. 1, 2008, while the Wild are trying to avoid their second five-game slide of the season -- they lost five in a row from Oct. 8-17. Minnesota will have to find a way to get its offense in gear to avoid continuing its victory drought.

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