Flames-Wild Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 27, 2011
The Minnesota Wild may be among the best teams in the Western Conference, but they'd like to start making things a bit easier for themselves. They usually have an easy time of it against the last-place Calgary Flames. After losing for the first time in six games, the Wild look to re-establish their momentum by continuing their dominance of the visiting Flames on Sunday. Minnesota (13-6-3) is unexpectedly in first place in the Northwest Division, thanks in part to an 8-3-1 home record. However, the Wild had their six-game home winning streak halted Friday when they fell 5-2 to Edmonton. Minnesota allowed the first two goals of the game, and has been outscored 6-1 in its last five opening periods. "Certainly we have been playing with fire, spotting teams the lead lately," coach Mike Yeo said. "There have been a lot of nice stories about us coming back and keeping with our game, but that's something we have to definitely be better at." Facing Calgary (8-12-1) may be just what the Wild need. Minnesota is 11-2-1 in the last 14 matchups of this division rivalry, winning the last four by a combined 16-2. The Wild won 3-0 at Calgary on Nov. 8 behind 41 saves from Niklas Backstrom. Backstrom is 9-1-1 with a 1.02 goals-against average and four shutouts in his last 12 meetings with the Flames. He's shut them out the last two times he's faced them while stopping 78 shots. Backstrom, who rested Friday in favor of backup Josh Harding, has also won three starts in a row with a 1.33 GAA and a shutout. Mikko Koivu, who leads Minnesota with 16 points, has two goals and four assists in his last four games. The center set up a goal by Dany Heatley against the Flames earlier this month. While the Wild are trying to prove they belong among the top teams in the conference, the Flames are mired at the bottom of the Northwest and trying to salvage one victory in the finale of their four-game road trip. Calgary hasn't dropped four in a row since Oct. 28-Nov. 5, 2010, its longest slide of last season. The Flames got within a loss of equaling that dubious feat with Friday's 2-0 defeat at St. Louis. "The positives are we played a hard game," Calgary coach Brent Sutter said. "We played hard, we had opportunities to capitalize. You've got to build off those things. You can't sit around and dwell on them. "You can't dwell on the negatives. No one's feeling sorry for us so we certainly can't. We have to stay together as a group and keep pushing ahead and keep that attitude where it needs to be and we will get through it." Curtis Glencross leads Calgary with seven goals, but has no points on the road trip. He also doesn't have a point in eight career visits to Xcel Energy Center.
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