The Flames (6-8-3) have lost only three times in 19 meetings with the Wild (9-5-2) at Pengrowth Saddledome, winning 13 and tying three of the matchups.
One of those victories came on Oct. 24 as Calgary rallied from a three-goal deficit in the first period to come away with a 5-3 win. The Flames, though, have since gone 1-5-1 and lost their fifth straight—third in a row at home— Saturday, 4-2 to Edmonton.
That defeat also dropped the Flames to 0-4-0 during an eight-game stretch against Northwest Division rivals, which opened with a 4-1 loss at Minnesota on Nov. 3.
Calgary has not lost six consecutive games since Nov. 9-21, 2002, which included its last four-game slide at home. The Flames are 4-5-2 at the Saddledome after leading the league in home wins last season with a 30-9-2 mark.
“We have to get it turned around,” said center Craig Conroy, who broke out of a nine-game point drought with an assist against the Oilers. “Everybody talks about rock bottom - if we’re not at it, we’re close. It’s not going to get any easier.”
The Flames could use better goaltending from Miikka Kiprusoff, who has posted a 3.74 goals-against average in losing each game during the slide. The 2005-06 Vezina Trophy winner made 31 saves Saturday, but was criticized by coach Mike Keenan for failing to stop Robert Nilsson’s power-play goal with six seconds left in the first period.
“It was quite obvious that our goaltender should have had that particular goal,” Keenan said. “Pretty difficult to criticize people on the penalty kill situation when your goaltender is not part of the solution.”
Kiprusoff has a good chance to get back on track Tuesday. He is 9-1-0 with one tie, two shutouts and a 1.62 GAA in 11 starts against the Wild at Calgary.
He’ll also try to help improve the Flames’ poor penalty-killing unit, which has allowed a Western Conference-high 24 goals, ranking just behind NHL-worst Atlanta (25). The Flames have allowed seven power-play goals in 23 short-handed situations in the last five games.
Calgary has been outscored 19-7 during the five-game slide, failing to produce more than two goals in any contest. Captain Jarome Iginla has been one of the few consistent sources of offense in that span with five points.
Iginla, who is among the NHL’s leaders with 24 points, has scored more goals against the Wild (23) than any other club while totaling 40 points in 37 games, including seven points in the last three matchups.
“We have to play better than we did tonight if we want to win - with our injured players or without them,” Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. “We have to play well with the players that we had.”
Demitra has missed six of the last eight games, while Gaborik has been sidelined for four of six. Gaborik’s 13 points tie him for second on the team with Mikko Koivu and Brian Rolston, while Demitra has 10 points in 10 games.
Gaborik has five points in the last two games against Calgary, including two goals and an assist on Nov. 3.
Minnesota is 2-5-1 after opening the season 7-0-1.