NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Sunday, March 7th (All times eastern)
Calgary Flames (31-24-9) at Minnesota Wild (31-27-5), 3 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Calgary Flames will have an opportunity to avenge a recent shutout loss to the Minnesota Wild when the two Northwest Division foes face off for the second time in less than a week this afternoon at the XCel Energy Center.
The Flames and Wild met in Calgary on Wednesday in the first game for both teams after the NHL's extended break for the Winter Olympics, with Minnesota posting a 4-0 victory behind a terrific performance out of goaltender Nicklas Backstrom. The Finnish netminder outdueled counterpart and countryman Miikka Kiprusoff by turning aside all 29 shots he faced to give the Wild their fourth straight win in this series.
Calgary bounced back strongly in its last outing, however, by coming away with a 5-3 triumph over New Jersey Friday at the Saddledome. The Flames scored three times in the second period to build a two-goal lead entering the third, then extended the margin to 5-1 on tallies by Matt Stajan and David Moss in the final session.
Curtis Glencross, Daymond Langkow and Eric Nystrom also scored for the Flames and Kiprusoff, who saved just 17-of-21 chances in Wednesday's loss to the Wild, came up with 22 stops as Calgary closed out a four-game homestand with a 2-2-0 record.
"[Friday's] game was a game that we needed to play well to have success," said Flames head coach Brent Sutter, a former sideline boss of the Devils. "I know better than anyone what type of team [the Devils] have there. If you want to have success against them you've got to battle and compete. We can't have any average players and [Friday] we had a real solid team effort."
The win pushed Calgary to four points ahead of the Wild in the Western Conference standings after Minnesota lost in a shootout at lowly Edmonton on Friday. The Oilers delivered the 2-1 verdict when Mike Comrie scored in the sixth round of the deciding phase.
Backstrom, who served as Kiprusoff's backup for Finland in the Vancouver Games, finished with 22 saves between regulation and overtime, but the only offense the Wild could generate was a wraparound goal from Guillaume Latendresse in the second period.
"We have no excuses," Minnesota coach Todd Richards said. "We didn't play the way needed to play to win the game. We had opportunities in the end to win, but for the most part for the 60 minutes it wasn't the type of game we needed to play."
The Wild, who are tied with Anaheim for 12th in the crowded Western Conference race and five points out of a playoff spot, will be attempting to gain some ground on a Calgary team they've been able to handle this season. Minnesota has won all three clashes between the clubs in 2009-10, including a 4-1 decision in St. Paul on January 6.
Backstrom has played an instrumental role in the Wild's recent success in this series. In the team's last four meetings with Calgary -- all Minnesota wins -- the 32-year-old has yielded a mere two goals and registered two shutouts for a sparkling 0.49 goals against average.
03/07 10:30:56 ET