The Flames' recent two-game winning streak has lifted them into third place in the Northwest Division as they will try to stay clear of tonight's opponent when they take on the Wild in the last game of a three-game home stand at the 'Dome (8PM MT, CBC).
Since we last saw the Wild in a 3-2 shootout victory for the good guys back on December 3rd in St. Paul, the Wild are 2-2-1 and have lost their past two games to some fairly middling teams in Ottawa and Anaheim. Over a quarter of the way into the season the Wild are a .500 hockey even with the return to health of some of their injured regulars, and this could be as good as it gets for the Minnesotans, barring an extended hot streak. Minny currently has a -17 goal differential despite both goaltenders having a total SV% of over .900. At 5-on-5, the Wild's 52 goals against is ninth best in the league, but they have struggled when down a man--ranking in the NHL's bottom ten with 21 goals allowed on the penalty kill.
Niklas Backstrom has an atrocious .810 SV% when his club is shorthanded, while backup Jose Theodore has yet to allow a powerplay goal in eleven games played this season; the Flames will be facing the former tonight, and will have to take advantage of their opportunities with the man advantage while attempting to keep the Wild's top-ten powerplay at bay. At the other end of the rink, Miikka Kiprusoff is a career 16-2-2 against the Wild in Calgary, allowing an average of less than two goals per game in those twenty contests.
Curtis Glencross was not very pleased about being a healthy scratch in Thursday night's win over the visiting Maple Leafs, and he could very well sit again tonight as Matt Stajan had a decent showing in his return from his stint in the press box against his former team. It appears that we'll have to wait until puck drop to find out for sure as Brent Sutter was reluctant to reveal his plan of action at this morning's practice. For the time being, all attention is on Olli Jokinen, who has put together a nice little scoring streak for after recording three points against Toronto on Thursday; he's been putting himself in a better position to shoot and score recently and has been the beneficiary of some good puck luck. Hopefully that trend continues tonight, as Jokinen has 4-6-10 and 21 PIMS in 19 career games against Minnesota, good for just 1.9 PPG. Jarome Iginla--currently on a ten-game point streak--recently re-discovered his scoring touch against Wild after a lengthy drought, and is operating at a career near-PPG pace against the Flames' division rival.
Estimated Lines and Pairings:
Enjoy the game everyone and ridicule Olli Jokinen for his impending return to his thoroughly mediocre ways in the comments.