Flames-Wild Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 21, 2012
The Calgary Flames haven't advanced to the postseason in three years. That playoff drought, as well as their losing streak, will likely continue if they don't start putting the puck in the back of the net with more regularity. Calgary goes for its first victory in four games on Thursday night when the Minnesota Wild try to avoid a fifth straight loss in this Northwest Division rivalry. Three points off the playoff pace last season after finishing tied for ninth in the Western Conference in 2010, the Flames (34-26-14) are in danger of missing the postseason again with three losses in a row following a season-best five-game win streak. Calgary has points in 19 of 23 games, but it's locked in a tight race with Colorado, Los Angeles, Phoenix and San Jose for the final two playoff spots. The Flames will have little chance to grab either berth if their offense doesn't improve. They've scored once in each of the last three contests after averaging 4.2 in the five that preceded this skid. "You aren't going to win many scoring one goal in games,'' Jarome Iginla said following Tuesday's 2-1 overtime road loss to the Avalanche. Iginla is scoreless during the 0-1-2 slide after recording eight goals and six assists during an eight-game point streak to open March. Facing the Wild could help the Flames captain find his scoring touch. Iginla has a goal in each of his last four games between these clubs, including his 500th in a 3-1 home win Jan. 7. His 35 goals versus the Wild are his most against any opponent, while his goal total and 64 lifetime points are the most Minnesota has allowed to any player. Iginla, who scored the final goal in a 5-2 win at Minnesota on Nov. 27, opened the scoring in a 4-3 victory in St. Paul on March 11. Calgary has never won three in a row on the road in this series. The Wild (30-32-10) will try to prevent that from happening as they complete a five-game homestand. Minnesota was the league's first team to reach 20 wins, but the club is 13th in the West with 70 points following Monday's 2-0 victory over Vancouver. It was the Wild's second regulation win in 13 tries. "Obviously, (we're) not in the spot where we want to be, but all we can do is play as good as we can and as hard as we can the rest of the 10 games," said captain Mikko Koivu, who practiced Wednesday and is expected to return after missing 15 games with a shoulder injury. Niklas Backstrom should be ready to go after missing nearly all of March with a strained groin, but Josh Harding is expected to be in net for the Wild after making 33 saves Monday. Harding turned aside 25 of 27 shots on Nov. 27 after Backstrom was pulled less than nine minutes in after giving up three goals. Matt Hackett made 21 saves as Minnesota opened its homestand on March 11. Flames netminder Miikka Kiprusoff has a 1.81 goals-against average while starting each game against Minnesota in 2011-12. He was 1-8-2 with a 2.81 GAA in his previous 11 starts in this series prior to winning the last four. Calgary could match its longest winning streak versus Minnesota.
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