Game Preview: Flames vs Minnesota Wild

CALGARY FLAMES (7-7-3 17 points) vs. MINNESOTA WILD (8-7-2 18 points) GAME 18

 

PREVIEW:

For the third time in two weeks, the Calgary Flames and Minnesota Wild relinquish their rivalry as the Flames head into Minnesota tonight, looking for their third consecutive victory.

The Flames, who finally gave their fans something to cheer about with a 2-1 record during their three game homestand, will go for their first three game winning streak since a five-game streak from March 6-15.

It was a positive weekend for the Flames as they finally got back to .500 and Jarome Iginla recorded two goals on Sunday versus the Coyotes, which will hopefully get him back on track as the perennial twenty goal scorer that the Flames need him to be.

Joey MacDonald will get his fourth consecutive start tonight, as Miikka Kiprusoff continues to progress with his injury, taking shots in yesterday’s practice. Kiprusoff is not with the Flames on their mini two-game road trip but things are going in the right direction, which will hopefully see Kipper back between the pipes sooner than later.

It is mind boggling why things have not changed in Minnesota as they have continued to struggle scoring goals this season, ranking 29th in the league, averaging just 2.06 goals per game.

Many thought the Wild would play a more high-tempo style with the acquisitions of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, along with all their electrifying young talent added to their roster. The lack of training camp could be an issue and the overall change of focus of the organization could be a steep one but for them to have all the talent they have, it seems like a waste that they play the way they do.

Nicklas Backstrom will get his third consecutive start for the Wild and third in a row against the Flames.

It is a big game for both teams as they are on the outside looking up in the Western Conference.

 

PROJECTED LINES:

Flames:                                                                        Wild:

1- TANGUAY-STAJAN-IGINLA                                     1- PARISE-KOIVU-COYLE

2- GLENCROSS-CAMMALLERI-STEMPNIAK             2- BOUCHARD-BRODZIAK-HEATLEY

3- BAERTSCHI-COMEAU-HUDLER                            3- SETOGUCHI-CULLEN-ZUCKER

4- CERVENKA-BEGIN-JACKMAN                               4- RUPP-GRANLUND-MITCHELL

 

1- BOUWMEESTER-GIORDANO                                1- SUTER-BRODIN

2- WIDEMAN-BRODIE                                                 2- GILBERT-FALK

3- SMITH-BUTLER                                                      3- STONER-SPURGEON

 

1- MacDONALD                                                           1- BACKSTROM

2- TAYLOR                                                                   2- KUEMPER

 

EXTRA- BABCHUK, SARICH, ALIU                            EXTRA- KONOPKA, PROSSER

 

INJURIES:

Flames: G- Miikka Kiprusoff (Knee- IR), C- Mikael Backlund (Knee- IR), C- Paul Byron (Broken Hand- IR)

Wild: G- Josh Harding (Illness- IR), RW- Cal Clutterbuck (Bruised Left Thigh- IR)

 

STATS:

Flames

PLAYER

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

A. Tanguay

17

5

10

15

-5

J. Iginla

17

3

10

13

-2

L. Stempniak

17

5

7

12

5

M. Cammalleri

14

5

7

12

-3

C. Glencross

17

7

4

11

-3

 

Wild

PLAYER

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

Z. Parise

17

7

5

12

-2

M. Koivu

17

3

9

12

-3

D. Heatley

17

5

4

9

-5

M. Cullen

17

3

6

9

E

R. Suter

17

0

9

9

-6

 

PP-

Flames: 22.0% (8th)

Wild: 13.8% (27th)

PK-

Flames: 75.0% (27th)

Wild: 84.9% (6th)

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE STANDINGS:

 

GP

W

L

OTL

PTS

1. CHICAGO

19

16

0

3

35

2. ANAHEIM

17

13

3

1

27

3. VANCOUVER

18

10

4

4

24

4. NASHVILLE

20

9

6

5

23

5. ST. LOUIS

18

10

6

2

22

6. DETROIT

19

9

7

3

21

7. LOS ANGELES

17

9

6

2

20

8. DALLAS

19

9

8

2

20

 

9. SAN JOSE

17

8

6

3

19

10. PHOENIX

18

8

7

3

19

11. MINNESOTA

17

8

7

2

18

12. EDMONTON

18

7

7

4

18

13. CALGARY

17

7

7

3

17

14. COLORADO

17

7

8

2

16

15. COLUMBUS

19

5

12

2

12

 

MY TAKE:

I was not able to watch either of the Flames victories on the weekend as I was on a bus to Camrose and Grande Prairie.

I was able to follow the games on my phone and it was good to see the Flames show some resiliency against the Coyotes as they almost blew it but came on strong late to get the two points and get back to .500.

There is no question a .500 record is important if you want to compete for a playoff spot but in order to crack the top 8, they are going to need be above that mark.

The cut-off at the 48 game mark last season in the West was 53 points. The Flames currently have 17 points in 17 games played. In order to get to the magical 53 point mark, the Flames will need 36 points in their final 31 games and will have to go at least 15-10-6 the rest of the way.

It is not going to be easy but if the Flames are able to keep a steady (my thesaurus word for consistent) pace and continue to play like they did on the weekend, the Flames have a chance; especially with Kiprusoff likely returning to the line-up sooner than later (fingers crossed).

Matt Stajan has been one of the Flames most consistent players this season and it scares me. Stajan is no dummy and realized the situation he was in coming into this season with the NHL and NHLPA agreeing to two amnesty buy-outs for each team. Making 3.5 million dollars a season, Stajan knows he will probably never make that kind of money as he continues his career, so seeing him play some of his best hockey as a Flame, is not surprising.

I worry that the Flames will not use, my favourite Jay Feaster’s saying, ‘intellectual honesty’ and decide not to buy him out at the end of the season and Stajan will go back to his typical over-paid self. You see it all over the league with players in their contract years and for anyone to think Stajan is all of a sudden worth his 3.5 million dollar cap hit, would be a huge mistake.

It is something to worry about at the end of the season, for now the Flames need wins and three in a row would be a great building block especially against the Wild, who they will have to beat out if they want to make the playoffs.

 

 

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