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Wings go for season sweep of Flames

by Deborah Francisco
RED WINGS (25-10-5) AT FLAMES (18-20-3)

TV – FS-Detroit (HD), SNET-West (HD)

Last 10
-- Detroit  5-3-2; Calgary 5-5-0

Season series – This is the fourth and final regular season meeting between the Red Wings and Flames this season. Detroit won the first three meetings, but the last contest, on Nov. 21 at the Joe Louis Arena, went into overtime before a goal by Nicklas Lidstrom gave the Wings a 5-4 win.

Big story – The Flames are looking to snap a two-game losing streak and will have to battle hard for the two points in Friday’s game that could tie Detroit for first place overall in the League standings.

Team Scope:

Red Wings
– The Wings have stayed among the NHL’s top teams despite playing without top center Pavel Datsyuk and right wing Danny Cleary, who are out with injuries.

Despite what the final score said, Detroit cut it close on Tuesday night in a 5-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers to snap a mini-skid of two games. The Red Wings gave up a two-goal lead in the third period when Edmonton tied the game at 3-3 but Detroit snapped out of its funk when Todd Bertuzzi batted in the game-winner at 17:10 and Darren Helm tacked on an insurance goal 44 seconds later to assure the victory.

"It was more interesting than it should have been," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "We didn't start the third period as well as we wanted to and we didn't get through the neutral zone as good. … We're getting contributions from everybody right now and we need it when we are short-staffed."

Flames – It was nothing short of a frustrating night for the Flames on Wednesday night at Rogers Arena as the struggling Flames’ squad outshot the League-leading Vancouver Canucks 44-21 but lost 3-1.

“We did a lot of things right,” defenseman Mark Giordano told the Calgary Herald. “We put a lot of pucks to the net. I think we have to do a better job of trying to generate more around the crease. Maybe throw a couple at his feet.

“When you get 40 shots, a lot of times you should win the game. We just have to sharpen up mentally a little bit, and we’ll be fine.”

Despite the loss, there have been flashes of hope for the Flames as the midway point of the season approaches, such as  the second-period heroics of Jerome Iginla who hit the ice to block a shot from Vancouver’s Alex Burrows on an otherwise empty-cage. Also, Calgary capped off December with a three-game win streak that it extended to four games with a 2-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers in the Battle of Alberta on New Year’s Day.

Who’s hot – Detroit’s Todd Bertuzzi scored twice in Edmonton after going without a goal in his 15 previous games.

Injury reportValtteri Filppula is questionable for Friday’s game after tweaking his groin. Cleary is out for the next four weeks with a fractured ankle, Datsyuk is out at least two more weeks with a broken hand and Patrick Eaves (elbow) is expected to return Friday. … Calgary is without defenseman Steve Staios (ribs).

Stat pack – The Flames are 39-26-6 when playing the Red Wings at home. … Detroit defenseman Brian Rafalski has 26 assists without a goal. The record is 33, by Buffalo’s Teppo Numminen in 2005-06.

Puck drop Jimmy Howard will be back in net for the Red Wings on Friday after taking a one-game break.

“Sometimes you get in a rhythm where it’s not hitting you, and sometimes as a goalie, you just need the rhythm broken. So we gave him a couple of extra days to work with (goalie coach) Jimmy (Bedard), get freshened up and get his mind ready,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock told the Detroit Free Press.

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