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Red Wings battle Flames for West's eighth seed

by Eric Goodman
FLAMES (32-24-9) AT RED WINGS (31-22-12)

Last 10 -- Calgary 5-4-1; Detroit 5-3-2

Season series --
This is the third of four meetings between Calgary and Detroit. Both clubs have won on road ice this season, with the Flames claiming a 3-0 victory at Joe Louis Arena on Nov. 27 and the Wings taking a 3-1 win on Oct. 31 at Pengrowth Saddledome.

Big story -- Only one point separates the ninth-place Flames from the eighth-place Red Wings in the Western Conference standings and, with only 17 games left in the regular season for each team, every contest will play a critical part toward making the postseason.

Team Scope:

Flames -- Calgary will seek to win its third game in a row after getting shut out, 4-0, by Minnesota on Mar. 3. Captain Jarome Iginla helped the Flames overcome that loss to the Wild as he recorded his 10th career hat trick in a 5-2 win at Minnesota this past Sunday. The Flames have made the playoffs every season since losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final and they will need Iginla to continue putting pucks in the net if they hope to return there this year.

"He's got that grit and intangibles of a great hockey leader, and he has an incredibly high offensive skill level," newly-acquired defenseman Steve Staios said of Iginla after Sunday’s game.

Red Wings --
Despite numerous injuries this season and one of the oldest lineups in the NHL, Detroit continues to motor along. A victory over the Flames would mark the Red Wings’ third win in a row and five wins out of their last six contests. Perhaps no single game exemplified the Wings’ grit and determination more than this past Sunday’s victory at the Blackhawks in which Detroit scored five unanswered goals in the second period, after falling behind 2-0 in the first. The Wings fought hard to protect that lead in the third period and escaped the United Center with a 5-4 win.

"We came out and went to town in the second period," goaltender Jimmy Howard said after making 28 saves. "We really played well in the neutral zone and counterattacked and got something on them."

Who’s hot --
Flames left wing Rene Bourque has five points in his last two games, including a four-point effort (1-3-4) on Sunday against Minnesota. … Wings center Pavel Datsyuk has scored in five straight games and nine out of his last 10 overall, amassing 12 points (5-7-12) over that span.

Injury report --
The Flames are expected to have a fully healthy lineup. … For Detroit, veteran Todd Bertuzzi left Sunday’s game in the second period with a lower-body injury and his playing status is uncertain.

Stat pack --
Iginla, the Flames’ veteran captain, had not scored a goal in the 10 previous games leading up to his hat trick on Sunday.

Puck drop --
Once March rolls around, most NHL games seem to take on an atmosphere where it feels more like a playoff contest than just another regular-season game. The intensity at the Joe should definitely be kicked up a notch considering that crucial postseason points are up for grabs for both teams. Fans should expect a tight matchup with both teams trying to grind it out for the all important regulation win and a two-point gain in the standings.

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