Surprising Stars attempt to douse Flames
FLAMES (14-18-3) at STARS (21-10-3)
TV: SNET-CGY (HD), FS-SW (HD)
Calgary 4-5-1; Dallas 6-2-2
First of four meetings this season. Dallas took three of four on the 2009-10 schedule, with Mike Ribeiro
's 3 goals leading the way. Calgary captain Jarome Iginla led all scorers in the series with 4 goals, including the overtime winner on Nov. 4, 2009 at American Airlines Center.
The Stars are guaranteed they will head into the holiday break leading the Pacific Division, and depending on how things play out Thursday they could finish the night first in the entire Western Conference. It's rather remarkable for a team that missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs entirely in each of the past two seasons.
One goal is only going to get it done on the nights when Miikka Kiprusoff or his backup Henrik Karlsson are perfect, and in each of the last three games for Calgary that hasn't been the case. As a result, the Flames were swept in a home-and-home by the Wild, then dropped a 3-1 game to the Blue Jackets on Tuesday. Karlsson was solid, yielding two goals on 36 shots, but an Olli Jokinen power-play tally late in the second was all he received in support.
"Karlsson played well," coach Brent Sutter said. "When you score just one goal, that makes it tough. We had some chances and some opportunities and didn't capitalize on them."
Since a 4-1 loss in Toronto on Nov. 22, Dallas has gone 11-2-2 to announce its candidacy as one of the NHL's elite. The Stars are currently on a three-game winning streak that has featured a one-goal win in Columbus, an overtime victory over Detroit and Tuesday's 5-2 triumph on home ice against the Canadiens that started a three-game homestand. Kari Lehtonen
made 27 saves and five different players scored goals.
"We've done a lot of that lately, scoring by committee or whatever you want to call it. Guys are finding a way," said Steve Ott
, who contributed a pair of assists. "Shorthanded, power play, even strength, we found a way. It was a low shot total game for us (17), but we found goals at crucial times."
Jokinen has been the lone goal scorer in each of the Flames' past two games. … Loui Eriksson
(3-5-8) and Brad Richards
(4-1-5) have four-game points streaks going for the Stars.
Calgary forwards Daymond Langkow (neck) and Raitis Ivanans (concussion) and defenseman Steve Staios (upper body) are on injured reserve.
Kiprusoff, who gave up only 163 goals in 73 games last season, has yielded a League-high 79 goals in 29 games to this point. His 16 losses are also the most by a goalie. … The Stars are 10-0-2 over their last dozen home games and they've won their last 13 games when scoring the first goal.
As with most teams that haven't been scoring goals, Calgary is fighting frustration over all the missed chances it has encountered in recent games. Against Columbus, Ales Kotalik had an open net at one point only to have his stick shatter, then the whistle was blown as he was set to go in on a breakaway because a fight had broken out behind the play. Curtis Glencross had a prime opportunity of his own ring off the post.
"We started putting pucks toward the net more," defenseman Mark Giordano told the Calgary Herald. "We started to drive the net, trying to generate chances. And we had chances. Again, a couple of unlucky breaks -- a post, a broken stick. But you know what? Those things are going to happen, but we have to create ugly ones."