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Sabres-Flames Preview

GAME: Buffalo Sabres (29-14-3) at Calgary Flames (27-14-5).

TIME: Saturday, 9 p.m. EST.

After ending 2005 with a scoring dry spell, Jarome Iginla has picked up the pace and the Calgary Flames couldn't be happier.

Iginla and the Flames will try to maintain a hold on first place in the Northwest Division when they host the Buffalo Sabres.

Calgary is tied for first with the Vancouver Canucks, each with 59 points, though the Flames have played one less game.

Calgary has won five straight at home and six of nine overall.

Iginla scored twice to lift the Flames over the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 on Thursday. Iginla, who scored just four times in a 19-game stretch through November and December, has scored in each of his last three games and has six goals in January.

"These last six games, I've been feeling better and things are starting to roll," Iginla said. "As a group, we're creating more scoring chances and it's good for everybody's confidence."

Iginla's 20th goal tied the game 1-1 in the first period, while his second goal in the second period became the eventual game-winner.

"Jarome's our captain and he's our catalyst," Flames forward Shean Donovan said. "He's the guy who gets things going for us and it's a lot of fun."

Iginla, who will represent Canada at next month's Turin Olympics, has just five goals and two assists in 12 games against the Sabres.

The Sabres have split the first two games of a season-high six-game road trip with a 4-1 loss Thursday to the Vancouver Canucks.

Ryan Miller stopped 19 of 20 shots through two periods before yielding two in the third. An empty-net goal in the final minute sealed the defeat.

"We did a good job, even in the third, but the room for error isn't there when you're on the road," said Miller, who gave up more than one goal for just the fourth time since returning after missing time with a broken thumb. "We allowed them opportunities to get the lead with a couple of penalties, especially early in the third."

Jason Pominville scored for the third time in four games and the first time since netting three against the Los Angles Kings on Jan. 14.

The Sabres finished 1-for-7 on the power play after scoring nine times with the man advantage in their previous five games.

Buffalo has won eight of the last 11 meetings with Calgary.

STANDINGS: Sabres - 61 points, 2nd place, 5 PB, Northeast Division. Flames - 59 points, 1st place (tied), Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sabres - Ales Kotalik, 18 goals; Tim Connolly, 29 assists; Chris Drury and Connolly, 38 points; Andrew Peters, 53 PIM. Flames - Iginla, 21 goals and 37 points; Andrew Ference, 19 assists; Darren McCarty, 76 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 19): Sabres - Power play: 22.0 percent (61 for 277), 2nd in NHL. Penalty killing: 86.2 percent (212 for 246), 2nd. Flames - Power play: 17.2 percent (47 for 274), 17th. Penalty killing: 81.7 percent (232 for 284), 18th.

GOALTENDERS: Sabres - Miller (13-7-0, 0 SO, 2.24 GAA); Martin Biron (15-5-3, 0, 2.97). Flames - Kiprusoff (24-12-5, 6, 2.31); Philippe Sauve (3-2-0, 0, 2.62).

2003-04 SERIES: Sabres, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Oct. 18, 2003; Sabres, 2-0. At Buffalo, N.Y., Kotalik and Miroslav Satan each scored for Buffalo and Mika Noronen had 20 saves to record a win in his first game of the season.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sabres - 14-7-1 on the road; Flames - 17-4-2 at home.

Associated Press
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