If the Calgary Flames
want to climb out of the Northwest Division basement -- they enter the weekend two points behind the Avalanche (who've played two more games) -- they better start scoring some goals.
Entering Friday's visit by the Western Conference-leading Blackhawks, the Flames were 29th in the League with an average of just 2.12 goals per game. Clearly, that's not enough, even with the reliable Miikka Kiprusoff
minding their net.
As usual, the pressure to score in Calgary falls on veteran captain Jarome Iginla
, who has been known to be a bit of a slow starter. That history probably wasn't helped by a back problem that forced him to miss most of training camp.
Through 17 games, Iginla has just 5 goals and 9 points, and he's carrying a not-so-flattering minus-10 rating. In a few words, he needs to be more productive.
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On the flip side, Iginla again doesn't have a strong supporting cast around him. The Flames are weak at center and among the oldest teams in the League. In fact, during his long stint in Calgary, Iginla rarely (if ever) has enjoyed the company of a real No. 1 playmaking center.
After their home-ice date with the Hawks, the Flames hit the road for a four-game trip that starts in Columbus on Monday. If Iginla and his teammates don't find a way to increase their scoring output, GM Jay Feaster might have to start examining the value of a complete rebuild (something suggested by this writer last December).
Here's a hat trick of things that I'll be looking for this weekend:
* The struggling Ducks need to right their sinking ship when they host the Wings on Sunday. After a 4-1-0 start, Anaheim is just 2-8-4 in their last 14 games. That slide has left them in the Pacific Division basement, five points behind the fourth-place Coyotes.
Even with scorers like Ryan Getzlaf
, Corey Perry
, Bobby Ryan
and the ageless Teemu Selanne
, Anaheim's biggest problem has been lighting the lamp. The Ducks are 30th in offense, averaging just 2.00 goals per game.
Outside of Selanne (who has 18 points), the Ducks' big line is not meeting its production quotas. Getzlaf, for example, has just 4 goals in his first 19 games.
Even some recent quality time on the Pond hasn't helped the Ducks, who are 1-5-0 in their last six games at Honda Center. With seven of the next eight games on home ice, coach Randy Carlyle
better hope his team can reverse that disturbing trend.
* Can the Rangers' roll continue? They carry a seven-game winning streak north of the border for a date with the Canadiens at the Bell Center on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, CBC, RDS).
After an uninspiring 3-3-3 start, the Rangers tightened the screws on their team defense, and have allowed just 11 goals during their streak. On the season, New York ranks second in goals-against (behind only Minnesota), surrendering just 2.00 goals per game.
Defense - NYR
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 8
SOG: 19 | +/-: 7
The Rangers are getting it done defensively with a total team approach. That said, I have to give credit to a young blue line that has been without top defender Marc Staal
, who hasn't played yet this season due to a concussion.
and Ryan McDonagh
have been the team's busiest defensemen, both working more than 25 minutes per game. In fact, Girardi leads the League in minutes, averaging 27:46. Third-year player Michael Del Zotto
, who fell out of favor after a good rookie season, has regained his confidence. A 2008 first-round pick (No. 20), the speedy puck-mover is getting more than 22 minutes a night.
After dealing with the Habs, the Rangers will complete their current four-game road swing with stops in Florida and Washington next week before a Nov. 26 date with the Flyers, their Winter Classic foe.
* After the Bruins completed a perfect 5-0-0 homestand with a 2-1 shootout win against the Columbus Blue Jackets
on Thursday -- the franchise's best homestand since 1986 -- the defending Cup champs will look to make it eight wins in a row when they venture to Long Island on Saturday to begin a three-game road trip against the Islanders.
The Bruins began the homestand by routing the Isles 6-2 on Nov. 7.
The Bruins' November about-face (after a 3-7-0 October) has been sparked by an offensive explosion. The Bruins have outscored their opponents 36-14 during their seven-game win streak.
Speedy second-year sensation Tyler Seguin
has led the charge. The 19-year-old has been hot since opening night, putting up 11 goals and 20 points in 17 games. And Seguin’s impressive plus-15 rating is tops among all League forwards.
If the Isles are going to slow the Bruins on Saturday, they'd better figure out a way to silence Seguin.