By Alan Ferguson
Calgary (44-27-6) at Minnesota (36-32-9) 8:00 p.m. EDT
ST. PAUL, Minnesota (AP) — With their fifth consecutive playoff
berth wrapped up, the Calgary Flames will next try to win the
battle for first in the Northwest Division and home ice in the
Attempting to stay ahead in both races, the Flames seek their
first-ever season sweep of division rival Minnesota on Friday
night at the Xcel Energy Center.
The Flames enter Friday tied with Vancouver for the Northwest
lead but with two more wins than the Canucks and with five games
remaining for both teams. Calgary, which travels to Vancouver on
Tuesday night, is just one point ahead of Chicago for the
Western Conference’s top four.
Calgary had a 10-point lead over the Canucks in the Northwest on
March 6, but a 5-8-0 mark in its last 13 games helped erase that
advantage. The Flames, however, have won two of their last
three, including a 3-2 victory Saturday night over the visiting
Following a 2-1 loss Monday in San Jose, the Flames bounced back
Thursday with a 2-1 victory in Dallas. Craig Conroy scored with
7:39 left in the second period, and Miikka Kiprusoff shut out
the Stars over the final 56:58, making 29 saves.
Jarome Iginla also scored for the second straight game and with
86 points is likely to be Calgary’s leading scorer for the
eighth straight season.
“It’s a huge win for us,” left wing Eric Nystrom said. “We want
to get the ball rolling and build off the good things we did.”
The Flames will look to keep going against a team they’ve rolled
through this season, outscoring the Wild, 15-8, in five
victories. Calgary has won 10 of the last 11 matchups and is
22-4-2 against Minnesota since November 1, 2005.
The Flames will face a Wild team that has seen its playoff hopes
dim after alternating wins and losses in its last eight games.
With five games left, Minnesota enters Friday’s play trailing
eighth-place St. Louis by four points in the West.
After winning the finale of their four-game road trip, the Wild
couldn’t carry that momentum into their return home Tuesday
night with a 2-1 overtime loss to Vancouver.
Minnesota held the Canucks without a shot in the third period
and tied it at 1-1 on Marian Gaborik’s goal with 14:46
remaining, but missed its opportunity for a crucial second point
as Vancouver scored with a minute left in overtime.
“We played a great game, but we got one point,” goaltender
Niklas Backstrom said. “We have to move on and try to get more
While the Wild have allowed two goals or fewer in five of the
last six games, their offense has struggled to stay consistent.
Minnesota has scored three or more goals in each of its last six
wins, but tallied two or fewer in six of its last seven defeats.
The Wild have converted four of their last 35 chances on the
power play, including an 0-for-5 performance Tuesday.
“I felt that we didn’t have enough on the power play,” Minnesota
coach Jacques Lemaire said. “You just can’t be waiting, waiting.
You have to put the puck on net.”
The Flames have missed on their last 19 opportunities and will
face one of the league’s best penalty-kill units (87.3 percent),
which allowed its first power-play goal in six games Tuesday.