The Opposition: Hockey Wilderness
After collecting points in all four games on their Eastern conference road trip despite not playing their best hockey, the Flames are at home again to take on the Minnesota Wild tonight (7:30PM MT, TSN) in what will be the last game between the two clubs this season.
The Wild have ridden a 6-4 streak to ninth place in the West with 51 points, despite having a goal differential of -11, the same as the Flames. After an impressive 4-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday, Minnesota captured another win when they beat the Oilers 4-1 at Rexall Place last night, and they'll be looking for their third consecutive 'W' over a division rival when they invade the Saddledome. The Wild have been surprisingly good on the road this season with a 12-7-3 record away from the Xcel Energy Center, but the Flames have been on the mark at home as of late, going 5-2-1 in their past eight games in home silks.
The Wild have the added advantage of getting starter Niklas Backstrom back between the pipes tonight after the goalie missed some time with a hip injury suffered on New Year's Eve. Backstrom is a career 11-7-5 against the Flames, and with three of those wins coming this season, he's had their number as of late. The Flames found a way to capitalize on their offensive opportunities Monday night in Montreal, with the help of a few good bounces, and they'll have to make their chances count against a team they've only scored nine regulation goals against in five games this season.
The Flames will also have to contend with Martin Havlat, who is operating at a career PPG pace against Calgary, with 14 goals and 11 assists in 25 games, as well as former Flame Chuck Kobasew, who always seems to play well against his old club. On the plus side, defenceman Cory Sarich appears ready to return to the Flames lineup tonight after leaving Monday's game after blocking a shot in the third period, which means Brendan Mikkelson will sit again. He will re-take his position on the second pairing with Mark Giordano. The first line of Tanguay-Morrison-Iginla will stay together again tonight after taking on Montreal's top trio two nights ago and doing fairly well for themselves, while Kiprusoff starts in net tonight for the Flames after being pulled against the Canadiens, which coach Sutter said had "nothing to do with his play," and was instead an attempt to change the momentum of the game. Alrighty then.
Lines and Pairings:
Enjoy the game everyone, and do your best to stay awake during what will surely by a thrilling game of hockey in the comments. Go Flames.