Important points at stake in West as Stars host Flames
FLAMES (27-22-8) at STARS (28-25-3)
TV: TSN, FS-Southwest
Calgary 6-2-2; Dallas 4-5-1
This is the first of four meetings. The Flames took last season's series with two wins in regulation at home and two shootout victories at Dallas.
Important points are up for grabs as both Calgary and Dallas attempt to inch their way back into the Western Conference playoff picture. As of Wednesday, the Flames sat just one point behind the eighth-place Coyotes with 63 points, while Dallas is still very much in the hunt with 59 points. The Flames will try to establish a three-game win streak for the first time since Jan. 7-12, as the Stars hope to avoid a fourth consecutive loss.
With eight total goals over their two straight wins, the Flames are beginning to spark up their offense at just the right time. But the recent strong play of veteran goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff cannot be overlooked. While Calgary was all over the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 5-1 victory at home on Tuesday, getting goals from five different players, it was Kiprusoff who was the Flame burning the brightest. The Finnish netminder turned aside 41 shots for his third straight win and fourth victory out of his last five starts. Even Maple Leafs defenseman and former Flames teammate Dion Phaneuf had to give the goalie his due praise following the game.
"He played extremely well," Phaneuf said. "He's been playing very well for them all year. He was a huge part of their win. He stood on his head [tonight], that's for sure."
Dallas is winless over its last three games and cannot afford to lose any more ground to teams that sit right above them in the West standings. But if the Stars are going to turn it around, they'll need to improve upon an average of just 1.66 goals over their three straight losses to Buffalo, Los Angeles and, most recently, to the record-setting Detroit Red Wings.
Tuesday's game at Detroit was hard fought, but the 3-0 hole by the third period and eight penalties to the Red Wings' three told a different story. A 2-0 deficit in the first couldn't be erased despite valiant efforts by many of the Stars' skaters as the Red Wings earned an NHL-record 21st win in a row at home.
"(The Red Wings) got the two goals in the first, and we have to be better in the beginning of the games," said winger Loui Eriksson
Veteran forward Olli Jokinen has 5 goals and 2 assists in his last four games for the Flames. … The Stars' Michael Ryder
has rediscovered his scoring touch and is in the midst of a three-game point streak. He has also totaled 3 goals and 1 assist over the last five games.
Defenseman Derek Smith (ankle) and forwards David Moss (ankle), Curtis Glencross (MCL) and Lee Stempniak (ankle) are on injured reserve for the Flames. … Forward Brenden Morrow
(upper body) remains out indefinitely, while defenseman Sheldon Souray
(bone bruise, foot) is still day-to-day for the Stars. Souray's last game played was on Feb. 9.
The Flames have gained at least a point in six straight road games.
Simply put, there are too many important points at stake during this time of the season for teams to sit back and claim any moral victories. This is a notion that Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan is well aware of.
"We stayed to our game, we didn'Imt allow them a lot of turnovers,” Gulutzan said after the loss to Detroit. "Those are little steps, but at the end of the day, we need results. You take what you can and you got to move forward."