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Flames seek to shore up defense against Stars

By Jon Palmieri

Stats Editor

Dallas (33-29-8) at Calgary (40-23-6), 9:00 p.m. EDT

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) -- Olli Jokinen has provided more offense

than expected since joining the Flames. Team defense, however,

has been a big disappointment lately and Calgary's lead in the

Northwest Division has shrunk as a result.

The struggling Flames hope to rebound from one of their worst

performances of the season Wednesday night when they open a

three-game homestand against the Dallas Stars.

In need of an offensive boost for the stretch run, the Flames

(40-23-6) acquired Jokinen from Phoenix at the trade deadline

for forwards Matthew Lombardi and Brandon Prust and a

first-round draft pick.

The deal couldn't be working out any better for Jokinen, who has

eight goals and 10 points in his first six games with Calgary.

Jokinen was one of the few bright spots for the Flames in an 8-6

loss at Toronto on Saturday, as he collected three goals and two

assists.

"It's a good hockey team and I'm playing with good players like

Jarome (Iginla)," Jokinen told the Flames' official Web site. "I

get a lot of chances and I feel a little bit lucky, the puck's

been following me."

Iginla and Dion Phaneuf each had a goal and set up two others

for Calgary, which lost four of the final five contests on its

seven-game trip. That slide - coupled with Vancouver's strong

play - has pulled the Canucks within three points of the Flames

in the Northwest.

One area where the Flames haven't had much concern for years is

in net, where Miikka Kiprusoff has established himself as one of

the league's best.

Kiprusoff, though, has struggled lately, going 3-2-0 with a 4.57

goals-against average in seven starts since March 1. He allowed

six goals on 22 shots Saturday before he was replaced by Curtis

McElhinney early in the third period.

Coach Mike Keenan took the blame for starting Kiprusoff two

nights after he faced 45 shots in a shootout win at Detroit.

"He'd like to have a better game I'm sure, but I think it was

probably my fault for even playing him tonight because of what

he had to go through and the work he had last game," Keenan

said. "I take full credit for probably starting the wrong

goaltender."

Kiprusoff figures to be back in net Wednesday despite losing his

last four starts (0-3-1) against Dallas, including a pair of 3-1

defeats to the Stars this season.

Dallas was denied its third straight win with a 4-2 loss to

Vancouver on Tuesday in the opener of a three-game trip.

Stephane Robidas and Steve Ott scored for the Stars, who dropped

into a ninth-place tie with Minnesota in the Western Conference.

"It s tough," Ott said. "We can't afford right now to come away

empty-handed in the points department."

Right wing Jere Lehtinen returned to Dallas' lineup Tuesday

after he missed six games due to an upper-body injury, but

forwards Brad Richards (broken wrist), Fabian Brunnstrom (upper

body), Toby Peterson (foot) and Mark Parrish (head) remained

sidelined.

Marty Turco could be back in net after making 21 saves in

Tuesday's loss. He has stopped 60 of 62 shots in Dallas' two

wins over the Flames this season, and is 14-6-1 with two ties

and a 1.77 GAA in 24 career starts versus Calgary.

The Stars are 6-1-1 in their last eight games against the

Flames, including three straight wins in Calgary.

Dallas' Mike Ribeiro has four goals and seven assists during an

eight-game point streak.

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