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Slumping Flames continue road swing in Ottawa

by John Kreiser
FLAMES (18-20-5) at SENATORS (17-21-6)

TV -- RDS, SNET-West (HD); SNET-East (HD)

Last 10 -- Calgary 4-4-2; Ottawa 3-5-2

Season series -- It's the first of two games for these teams in less than a month; they meet again in Calgary on Feb. 9. They also met twice last season, with each club winning at home.

Big story -- The Senators are back home after a successful trip to Long Island, where they ended a six-game losing streak with a 6-4 victory on Thursday. The Flames, who lost 6-5 in a shootout at Carolina on Tuesday and have dropped four in a row, begin a three-in-four swing through Eastern Canada. They move on to Toronto on Saturday and Montreal on Monday.

Team Scope:

Flames -- Miikka Kiprusoff has been one of the pillars on which the Flames have been built. But the veteran goalie has struggled in his last three games, allowing several soft goals. He was lifted in the loss to Carolina after surrendering four goals on just eight shots.

"Kipper is obviously a very good goaltender but right now he's fighting it," coach Brent Sutter told the Calgary Sun after the 6-5 shootout loss to the Hurricanes. "Too many easy goals, it's bothersome."

Senators -- With his team in a funk, coach Cory Clouston opted to start 19-year-old rookie Robin Lehner against the Islanders. While Lehner wasn't fabulous -- he was shaky at times while allowing four goals on 24 shots -- the move must have invigorated the offense. The Senators had their biggest offensive night of the season, scoring six times in the first two periods before hanging on in the third.

"Any win right now is a good win for us," Clouston said. "I liked how we won the game. I thought we came out the way we wanted to. I thought we showed resiliency, which we hadn't been able to do in the past little while."

Who's hot -- Calgary's Jarome Iginla has a goal and an assist in each of his last two games, and Olli Jokinen had a pair of assists against Carolina. … Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson had the opening goal on Thursday and leads the Senators with 14 goals and 27 points.

Injury report -- Flames forward Tom Kostopoulos is still serving a six-game suspension, and defenseman Steve Staios remains out with cracked ribs. … Ottawa forwards Alex Kovalev (knee) and Jason Spezza (shoulder) are still out, and goalie Pascal Leclaire is sidelined with a lower-body injury.

Stat pack -- Sutter has to wonder if Kiprusoff needs a break. "Kipper" is among the NHL's most heavily-worked goalies with 36 appearances and 2,131 minutes. He's allowed 97 goals, the most of any goaltender, and his 2.73 goals-against average and .901 save percentage are not in the top 25 in the NHL in either category. … Ottawa had scored just seven goals in its six-game losing streak before getting six in the first 40 minutes against the Isles.

Puck drop -- It's getting late for both teams' hopes of getting back into the playoff race, making this game even more important. Clouston will have an interesting decision -- does he go with Lehner again after the win, or does he return to Brian Elliott, who was in goal throughout the six-game losing streak.

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