Wild-Flames Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 20, 2011
A slew of injuries may be catching up to the Minnesota Wild. Visiting the Calgary Flames could get them untracked. The Wild will try to snap a four-game slide by prolonging the Flames' four-game skid and continuing their success at Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday night. Minnesota (20-9-5) is without forwards Mikko Koivu (leg), Devin Setoguchi (lower-body injury), Guillaume Latendresse (concussion), Casey Wellman (wrist) and defenseman Justin Falk (back). It's unclear when any of those five will return, and Koivu's absence may be the most significant considering the captain leads the Wild with 28 points. Those injuries have certainly played a factor in Minnesota's slide, which hit four with Monday's 4-0 loss at Vancouver - the club's most lopsided of the season. Due to a 12-2-0 run prior to this skid, the Wild still have a three-point lead over the Canucks atop the Northwest Division. "It's not about the standings," said goaltender Niklas Backstrom, who has a 2.41 goals-against average while losing each of the last four games. "It's the way we're playing right now and that's not our hockey." Perhaps a visit to Calgary (14-15-4) can rejuvenate them. They've won six of their last seven there and each of the last three while outscoring the Flames 12-1. That includes a 3-0 victory Nov. 8, though Minnesota fell 5-2 to Calgary at home Nov. 27. Backstrom didn't fare well in that matchup, yielding three goals on eight shots before getting pulled 8:45 into the first period. He's 9-2-1 with a 1.25 GAA and four shutouts in his last 13 meetings with the Flames, however, including a 5-0 record and 0.52 GAA in six visits to Calgary. That may be enough for Backstrom to get the nod again since backup Josh Harding has lost all four of his games at the Saddledome with a 2.70 GAA. Dany Heatley has one point in his last three games after collecting one in each of his previous seven. The right wing has one goal and two assists against the Flames this season, finding the net and setting up Latendresse's tally in Calgary last month. Heatley nine points in nine career games there. The Flames are on the brink of their longest slide since dropping nine in a row from Jan. 11-28, 2010, but they're 5-0-1 in their last six at home. Calgary failed to carry that success onto the road, concluding an 0-2-2 trip with Sunday's 4-2 loss at Chicago. "Of the four games we had on the road, this was certainly the most disappointing effort," coach Brent Sutter said. "You can't play that way against any team, let alone top teams, in the National Hockey League and think you have a chance to win." Snapping the slide may be a tougher without Rene Bourque, who is suspended two games without pay after hitting the Blackhawks' Brent Seabrook from behind in the first period. Bourque has 11 goals to tie Olli Jokinen for second on the team behind Jarome Iginla's 12. He's not eligible to return until the Flames open a season-high seven-game road trip at Vancouver on Friday. Despite Calgary's struggles, Jokinen has three goals and three assists in his last three games and leads the team with 27 points. The center has five points in the past three home games, while Iginla has four goals and two assists in that stretch. Iginla has failed to produce a point in the Flames' last six home losses to Minnesota.
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