Flames in must-win mode at St. Louis
Friday, 04.01.2011 / 7:37 AM
NHL.comFLAMES (38-29-11) at BLUES (35-32-10)
TV: SNET-CGY (HD), FS-MW (HD)
Calgary 3-5-2; St. Louis 5-4-1
Friday night marks the final meeting of the regular season between the Flames and the Blues. Calgary has earned regulation wins in each of the previous three matchups between these Western Conference foes and is trying for its first season sweep of St. Louis since 2006-07. Miikka Kiprusoff registered shutout victories in both legs of the Flames' home-and-home sweep of the Blues on Feb. 27 and March 1.
The pressure is mounting for Calgary, which trails eighth-seeded Chicago by three points with only four games remaining. With the Blackhawks holding two games in hand, the Flames need to win all four games and get help down the stretch of the season to jump into the top eight. The Blues, who fell out of the race with a mid-March slump, have scored 22 goals while going 3-0-1 in their last four games.
Calgary was in great position to reach the playoffs in the tightly packed Western Conference after winning four of five games to kick off March. But since then, the Flames have taken a step back, dropping seven of nine games to fall to 10th in the conference standings.
The Flames rallied from a 4-1 third-period deficit to win 5-4 in a shootout at Edmonton on Saturday, but came home on Wednesday and lost 4-2 to the surging Anaheim Ducks. Defenseman Mark Giordano scored a timely tally to bring Calgary to within a goal early in the third period. But the NHL's leading goal-scorer, Corey Perry, capped off a two-goal night with an empty-netter in the final seconds to add a crushing blow to the Flames' already fading playoff hopes.
"We're not quitting," Flames coach Brent Sutter said. "We have four games to go here and you never know what can happen. But obviously losing [on Wednesday night], our odds diminish."
Blues: St. Louis won't be going to the playoffs, but you wouldn't know it based on the Blues' inspired offensive play as of late.
The Blues are 3-0-1 in their last four, including a 10-3 dismantling of the Red Wings on Wednesday night at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena. Nine different players lit the lamp, including 26-year old Chris Porter, who scored his first two goals of the season in the win.
"The guys know how important it is to start creating success now," coach Davis Payne said. "We could talk about what hasn't happened this season, but we're just focused on working to lay the groundwork for us down the road. Good habits aren't something you just turn on; you have to work to create them."
Who's hot: Blues forward Chris Stewart has 5 goals and 8 points in his last five games, continuing his stellar play since being acquired from Colorado in mid-February. … Flames' captain Jarome Iginla has been explosive as of late as well, compiling 11 points in his last eight games, including 7 goals.
Injury report: Brendan Morrison (knee), Fredrik Modin (back), David Moss (ankle) and Niklas Hagman (concussion-like symptoms) are expected to miss Friday's game for Calgary. But the Flames will have center Daymond Langkow in the lineup for the first time in more than a year. Langkow has not played since he sustained a neck injury last March 21 against Minnesota. … Blues' winger David Perron (concussion-like symptoms) remains out indefinitely, while center Alexander Steen and defenseman Barret Jackman will return to the lineup. T.J. Oshie will return Friday night against Calgary after missing two games due to team disciplinary action after he missed a practice.
Stat pack: Nine different players scored goals for St. Louis in their 10-3 win at Detroit on Wednesday night, tying a franchise record for goal scorers in one game. The Blues had previously registered nine different goal scorers in a 9-4 win over the Colorado Rockies on Dec. 13, 1980. The last time an NHL team had at least nine different players score in a game was on Nov. 26, 1996, when the Oilers had 10 goal-scorers against the Flames.
Puck drop: The Flames have the sixth-highest scoring offense in the NHL, but if the team's losing trend continues any longer, the playoffs will be out of the question. Friday night's clash in St. Louis will have playoff intensity, as the clock continues to tick for the Flames.
"We just gotta keep plugging away," forward Matt Stajan said. "We're going to need quite a bit of help now, but we'll try to win our games and hope from there."