FLAMES (10-13-2) at WILD (11-11-2)
TV: SNET-W (HD), KSTC (HD)
Calgary 3-5-2; Minnesota 4-6-0
These Northwest Division rivals are meeting for the third time already this season and have a home-and-home scheduled later this month. Each team has won once on its home ice, with Niklas Backstrom
making 33 saves and Martin Havlat scoring his first goal of the season in Minnesota's 2-1 victory on Nov. 5, and Miikka Kiprusoff
turning in a 32-save shutout to back Jarome Iginla
's goal and assist in a 3-0 Calgary triumph on Nov. 29.
Both teams' starting goaltenders will be hoping to turn in bounce-back performances. Kiprusoff followed up his whitewashing of the Wild by giving up seven goals to the Canucks on Wednesday, while Backstrom has sat and watched Jose Theodore for the past two games after yielding 18 goals over his previous three starts. Chances are he gets back in the crease on Friday.
Kiprusoff was spectacular at times during Calgary's recent five-game road trip and flawless in their return to the Scotiabank Saddledome on Monday against Minnesota, but he gave up four third-period goals to Vancouver as the Canucks turned a tight 3-2 score after 40 minutes into a 7-2 rout of the Flames. Mason Raymond scored shorthanded and power-play goals in the third to complete a hat trick and more than offset goals Tim Jackman
and Alex Tanguay
scored for the home team.
"Seven goals … that's a pretty good kick at home," coach Brent Sutter said. "What stings more is the way we handled our third period. That's unacceptable. That tells you that we have a lot of work to do. That is what bothers me more than anything."
As Backstrom has struggled, so too has Minnesota as a team, and not even turning to Theodore in consecutive starts could stem the tide. The Wild have lost five of their last six, including Wednesday's 4-2 defeat against the Coyotes. Matt Cullen
and Mikko Koivu
scored in the final eight minutes, each time paring the deficit to a single goal, but in the end the bright spot was Pierre-Marc Bouchard
's return to the lineup after missing 104 games due to a concussion and the lingering after-effects.
"I felt all right. For sure I would've liked to start with a win," Bouchard said. "Personally it was good to be back out there. I was a little excited, a little nervous."
Tanguay has 1 goal and 4 assists during a four-game points streak for the Flames. … Havlat has 2 goals and 4 assists over the last four games for the Wild.
Calgary has defenseman Adam Pardy (shoulder) and forwards Daymond Langkow
(neck), Ryan Stone (knee), Ales Kotalik (knee) and Raitis Ivanans
(concussion) on injured reserve. … Minnesota defenseman Clayton Stoner
(upper body) is out indefinitely, while goalie Josh Harding
(ACL/MCL) and forwards James Sheppard (knee), Guillaume Latendresse
(sports hernia/hip) and Chuck Kobasew (groin) are on injured reserve.
Stat pack: Brendan Morrison
faced the Canucks for the first time since signing with the Flames and won 67 percent of his faceoffs while posting a plus-1 rating in 16:23 of ice time. … The Wild have had at least 30 shots in each of the past three games, a season high.
Sutter displayed his unhappiness with Calgary's forwards late in Wednesday's game by putting out five defensemen -- Jay Bouwmeester
, Brendan Mikkelson
, Robyn Regehr, Anton Babchuk
and Cory Sarich
-- for the last half minute of a power play.
"We weren't doing anything on it," Sutter said. "I didn't think our forwards were working very hard on it. The first unit went out there and they never spent any time in the offensive zone whatsoever so I thought I'd give the defensemen an opportunity."