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Struggling Thrashers welcome in surging Flames

by Dan Rosen
FLAMES (25-21-6) at THRASHERS (24-20-9)

TV -- SNET-W (HD), FS-S (HD)

Last 10 --
Calgary 7-1-2; Atlanta 2-5-3

Season series -- This is the only meeting of the season between the two clubs.

Big Story --
Calgary is climbing and Atlanta is falling. The two teams were going in opposite directions earlier in the season, but the Flames have won five in a row to get back into playoff contention in the Western Conference while the Thrashers have just seven points in their last 10 games. They are hanging onto eighth in the Eastern Conference by a thread.

Team Scope:

Flames --
Calgary won another big game Tuesday night, besting Nashville 3-2 in a shootout. They've won five in a row and seven of their past nine thanks to a concerted effort to play strong team defense. The Flames have allowed 11 goals during their five-game winning streak. By comparison, they allowed 11 goals in losses to Montreal and Minnesota prior to starting the winning streak with a 7-4 win over Dallas on Jan. 21. They've beaten the Stars, Canucks and Predators twice -- that's three of the top four teams in the Western Conference.

"They've been consistent efforts," defenseman Cory Sarich said. "That's the biggest thing. Giving ourselves a chance and not beating ourselves. We're staying in games. We've limited our mistakes from the start of the year, and that's been huge for our success."

Thrashers -- The red flags went up Tuesday night when the Thrashers, a team that is supposedly a playoff contender, got blown out of its own building by the Islanders, a team that is in line for another top-five pick at the Entry Draft in June. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Nik Antropov used the term "embarrassing" to describe the loss and coach Craig Ramsay mentioned how the team's "commitment is lacking." The Thrashers have been bleeding since a 9-3 loss to Toronto on Jan. 7. If they can't close the wound Carolina, Buffalo or Florida will pass them by.

"We are just throwing the puck to the net, but we don't go to the net and drive to the net," goalie Ondrej Pavelec told the Journal Constitution. "We don't screen the goalie. We need those goals. … We have to realize a couple more games like that and we are going to be done."

Who's Hot -- Flames center Brendan Morrison has scored 3 goals and dished out 3 to lead his team in its five-game winning streak. Miikka Kiprusoff has yielded just 7 goals on 124 shots over his last four starts.

Injury Report --
Calgary's injured list features defenseman Steve Staios (upper body) and forwards Daymond Langkow (neck) and Raitis Ivanans (concussion). … Atlanta is still missing All-Star defenseman Tobias Enstrom (finger), goalie Chris Mason (knee) and forward Jim Slater (concussion).

Stat Pack --
All-Star defenseman Dustin Byfuglien has no points in his last 11 games. … Atlanta has a League-worst .469 winning percentage when it scores the first goal in a game. They are 15-10-7. … Calgary is 11-3-3 over its last 17 games. … Only Edmonton's Tom Gilbert and Minnesota's Brent Burns play more shifts per game than Calgary's Jay Bouwmeester (31.4).

Puck Drop -- "There is the knock on (Bouwmeester) that he is not as productive offensively as you would like," Flames acting GM Jay Feaster told the team's website. "Perhaps it is an overrating of the player offensively, but there is always an underrating of Bo in terms of what he does defensively. Until I got here and watched him play 27 or 28 minutes a game against the other teams' top players I didn't appreciate how good he was defensively. He has been very solid for us."

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