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Wild visit Calgary looking for Alberta sweep

by Matthew Mankiewich

WILD (8-6-2) at FLAMES (5-7-3)

TV: CBC, FS-North, FS-Wisconsin

Last 10: Minnesota 5-4-1, Calgary 4-4-2

Season series: Second of five overall, first of a home-and-home to be completed in Minnesota on Tuesday. The last meeting, also in Calgary, was the Wild's first road win of the season, a 2-1 shootout victory on Feb. 11. The Flames took two of three in both the Scotiabank Saddledome and the Xcel Energy Center in 2011-12, a reversal from the previous season when the Wild did likewise to the Flames.

Big story: This will be a meeting between teams out of their element, at least if their splits are any indication. The Wild have struggled on the road with a 2-4-1 record while the Flames have had problem at home with a 2-5-2 mark. The Wild, though, seem to be hitting their stride after an indifferent start, going 4-1-1 in their last five games and coming off a solid 3-1 win in Edmonton on Thursday.

Team Scope

Wild: It looked worse than it turned out to be. A look at Cal Clutterbuck's collision with Edmonton's Taylor Hall was cringe-worthy, but Clutterbuck came out with a contusion on his left thigh and will sit out Saturday's matchup. He will be further evaluated when the team returns home on Sunday. Hall received a two-game suspension from the NHL.

"I think it's a little reckless," Clutterbuck told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune when asked about the hit. "I've been in that situation a lot of times personally and I know there's a fine line between milliseconds and split seconds. Personally, I probably wouldn't put myself in that situation. But he made a decision. He was probably a little frustrated with the way the game was going. He made a decision, and here we are."

Clutterbuck led the NHL in hits the last three seasons and has built up an undeserved reputation as a head-hunter among opposing fans, especially when he has never been suspended or fined for his aggressive play.

Meanwhile, Matt Cullen scored twice on the Oilers and set up Devin Setoguchi with the go-ahead goal in the win.

"It was a step forward for us," Cullen said. "It's a big deal for us to get a road win and it was good to see us respond to a bit of adversity and come back with a fight.

"As a team we have to establish that. That when you are down one that you are going to be OK and make that push."

Flames: Only the Islanders at 2-6-0 have a worse record at home than the Flames, and a 3-1 loss to the Kings on Wednesday compounded the frustration. They've allowed an average of 3.7 goals per game in the Scotiabank Saddledome, which is second-worst in the NHL. Asking around the dressing room would reveal a common answer -- lack of aggressiveness.

"Joey MacDonald gave us a great game, but the bottom line is we have to be a grittier team," said coach Bob Hartley, upset over a run taken his goaltender in the second period and the passive response that followed. "It's as simple as this. We need to be in people's face. They ran our goalie. There was no consequences to this, and that's just not acceptable.

"We might not have the biggest team, but when you play as a team, you have to stick up for your teammates. And if it means you need to take a slap for the entire team or whether we go five guys, I think team unity is very important. We have a great group of guys, but we're just not playing tough enough."

Who's hot: Goalie Niklas Backstrom bounced back from the flu and stopped 27 shots in Thursday's win, improving to 3-0-1 in his last four outings. He was also the winner in last week's meeting with the Flames and is 6-1-0 with a 0.90 goals-against average in the Saddledome.

Injury report: Wild defenseman Justin Falk (flu) did not play against the Oilers but remains day-to-day. … The one player the Flames miss most, goalie Miikka Kiprusoff (MCL sprain), is still at least a week away. Help up front is on the way, though, as forward Sven Baertschi (hip) has shed the no-contact jersey and could be ready for Saturday's game.

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