Saturday, January 7, 2012 at 10pm EST at Scotiabank Saddledome
The Minnesota Wild and Calgary Flames have already had three meetings this season with the Flames holding a 2-1 advantage over the Wild. With three games remaining between the two intra-division rivals, the Wild will try and even the series on the road this evening against the Flames. In the last contest, played on December 20, the Flames skated to a 2-1 victory at home.
The Wild team is coming off a 3-0 shutout loss to Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks earlier in the week at Vancouver. The shutout was the third consecutive time that Luongo has blanked the Wild. Josh Harding got the start over Niklas Backstrom in goal, stopping 32 of 34 shots-on-goal by the Canucks in the defeat. Minnesota’s power play came up empty again going 0-for-4 in the man advantage situation.
Calgary is in a slump of its own having lost five consecutive games on the latest road-trip, including a 9-0 dismantling by the Boston Bruins in their most recent game. The Flames elected to give rookie goaltender Leland Irving the start to allow Miikka Kiprusoff a rest. The plan backfired for Calgary when at the 4:15 mark of the second period, Irving was pulled having given up six goals to the Bruins on just 21 shots.
Offensively, the game matches up Calgary’s No. 26-ranked offense (2.4 goals per game) against a Wild defense that ranks No. 7 at 2.4 goals per game allowed. The Flames powerplay has clicked at a 16.5% rate while the Wild have a 84.8% rate on the penalty kill.
Minnesota comes into tonight’s game clinging to the sixth seed in the West, but Colorado and Los Angeles are right on their heels just one point behind the Wild. Just to put the free fall by the Wild into perspective, they were firmly planted at the top of the NHL on December 11, winners of seven straight, five points ahead of second-place Blackhawks in the West and even four points ahead over the East top seed Flyers. Three weeks later, they have fallen right back with the “middle of the pack” teams and on the cusp of dropping out of a playoff spot.
The Flames have dominated the Wild, 21-6-6 at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
A few interesting trends for both teams:
Minnesota Wild Trends
– When playing on Saturday are 2-8
– Before playing Panthers are 4-4-2
– After playing Canucks are 4-6
– After a loss are 2-8
Calgary Flames Trends
– When playing on Saturday are 5-5
– Before playing Kings are 4-6
– After playing Bruins are 5-5-1
– After a loss are 3-7
Keys to the game:
– Who gets the start in goal for the Wild. Backstrom has allowed 10 goals in his last three road starts. Harding was solid in goal but lost to Vancouver in his last start. Tough choice for coach Mike Yeo tonight.
– Calgary’s Jarome Iginla remains at 499 goals looking for the coveted number 500th.
– Miikka Kiprusoff is 7-0-1 in his last eight starts at home, and no doubt will be in goal this evening.
– Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu has been held scoreless in his last two games and needs to rebound tonight against the Flames.
Prediction – With both teams struggling coming into tonight’s contest, either team could come out on top. The Wild somehow show some offense this evening and win in Calgary, 3-2.