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Red-hot Flames need points in Vancouver

by John Kreiser

FLAMES (34-24-9) at CANUCKS (42-23-3)

Last 10 -- Calgary 6-3-1; Vancouver 7-2-1

Season series -- This is the fifth of six meetings between the Northwest Division rivals, who conclude their season series at GM Place on the final Saturday of the season. The Flames won two of the first three, all played in Calgary, and went home with a 3-2 shootout win in the teams' last meeting on Jan. 9.

Big story -- The Canucks are home for the second night in a row after ending their marathon 14-game road trip with an 8-5-1 record. They gave the Vancouver fans, who hadn't seen an NHL game since Jan. 27, plenty to cheer by routing the Ottawa Senators 5-1 behind a pair of goals by Mikael Samuelsson. The Flames come to town playing some of their best hockey of the season -- they've won four in a row and have had two days off since blanking the Senators 2-0 on Thursday.

Team Scope:

Flames -- The Flames fell back into ninth place in the West on Saturday when Detroit beat Buffalo 3-2 in overtime and face a difficult back-to-back with the Wings coming to the Pengrowth Saddledome on Monday night.

But they're coming off the kind of performance any goaltender would love. Miikka Kiprusoff made 33 saves in the win over Ottawa -- and was aided by 30, count 'em, 30 blocked shots.

"Guys are paying the price and that's what you have to do if you want to win games like this," Kiprusoff said. "If you block a shot, there's not going to be a rebound and there's no scoring chance."

Canucks -- Saturday was party night in Vancouver, where the Canucks won their sixth in a row at home 45 days after the fifth game. They completely shut down Ottawa, limiting the Senators to just 14 shots on goal while scoring five times on 35 shots.

"There was really good emotion in the building," Samuelsson told Hockey Night in Canada. "It felt really good to be home. The fans are always great here, but this may have been a little better than usual."

Who's hot -- Christopher Higgins has goals in back-to-back games for the Flames after going scoreless since being acquired from the Rangers on Feb. 1. Kiprusoff has won his last three starts, allowing just five goals. … Samuelsson's two goals on Saturday gave him a career-high 30 for the season. Alex Burrows' shorthanded goal was his fifth of the season, tying him with Chicago's Marian Hossa for the NHL lead.

Injury report -- The Flames are as healthy as any team can be at this stage of the season. … Vancouver forward Steve Bernier will miss another 3-4 weeks with a sports hernia that required surgery. Defenseman Kevin Bieksa returned Saturday after surgery to repair left ankle tendons that were severed by a skate on Dec. 29, but defenseman Willie Mitchell (concussion) is still out.

Stat pack -- Saturday's packed house at GM Place was the 293rd in a row for the Canucks. Expect No. 294 tonight. … The Canucks' dominance of Ottawa is even more apparent when you look at shots attempted, rather than shots on goal. The Senators had a total of 22 shots at Roberto Luongo (14 on goal, 12 blocked, 2 misses). Vancouver had 68 shots at Pascal Leclaire (35 on goal, 19 blocked, 14 misses).

Puck drop -- The Canucks are solidly ensconced in first place in the Northwest Division and will have to guard against a letdown after the emotion of coming home on Saturday. The Flames will be desperate -- but they also have to make sure they don't focus too much on their showdown with Detroit on Monday.

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