Calgary (22-17-8) at Minnesota (26-17-2)

Cloudy Currently: St. Paul, MN
Temp: 32° F
  • Game info: 8:30 pm EST Wed Jan 16, 2008
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Marian Gaborik is the driving force for the Minnesota Wild this season, but he’s been getting some help from an unlikely source lately.

Gaborik—and Minnesota’s fourth line—look to lead the Wild to their fourth straight victory when they host the slumping Calgary Flames on Wednesday night.

Gaborik leads the Wild (26-17-2) with 25 goals and 47 points, and was named an All-Star for the second time on Thursday. He’s helped Minnesota move into a first-place tie with Vancouver in a crowded Northwest Division, where the top four teams are separated by four points.

He had a goal in Sunday’s 4-1 victory over Phoenix, giving him four with three assists during the Wild’s three-game winning streak. Minnesota, which has scored 15 goals during its run, has not won four in a row since Nov. 24-Dec. 2.

Gaborik has two goals and three assists in two games against Calgary this season. While his production is expected, the Wild’s line of Matt Foy, James Sheppard and Todd Fedoruk have played remarkably well recently.

Foy had an assist versus the Coyotes, giving him two goals and two assists during the streak. Sheppard scored to go along with three assists in his last three, while Fedoruk—known more for his physical play—has chipped in with a goal and an assist in those games.

“The way they’re playing I can’t take any of them out of the lineup,” Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said.

He’s also having difficulty finding time to rest goaltender Josh Harding, who was expected to back up Niklas Backstrom this season. Harding made 26 saves on Sunday, and is 7-2-0 with a 2.79 goals-against average since Dec. 14. He has stopped 93 of 97 shots since replacing Backstrom in the second period of Thursday’s 6-5 shootout win at Detroit.

Backstrom, meanwhile, is 1-2-0 with a 3.77 GAA in his last four starts, and Lemaire has dodged questions regarding who would be the team’s top goalie.

“The one that stops the puck is ahead of the other one,” he said. “The one that stops more pucks is the best one.”

Harding has not started against the Flames this season, and is 0-1-1 with a 1.74 GAA in his career against them.

Backstrom, meanwhile, is 1-2-0 with a 3.01 GAA versus Calgary in 2007-08. He is 3-3-1 with a 2.22 GAA and one shutout lifetime against the Flames.

The Flames (22-17-8) are in fourth place in the Northwest - just two points behind the Wild and Canucks - but have lost four straight.

Calgary fell to Nashville 3-0 on Tuesday, and has scored only six goals during its skid. The Flames, who have not lost five consecutive games since Nov. 1-10, had scored 20 goals during a five-game winning streak before their current slide.

“I’m concerned about the effort,” Calgary coach Mike Keenan said. “The work ethic is the biggest concern.”

Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 23 shots against the Predators before being replaced a minute into the third period by rookie Curtis McElhinney.

Kiprusoff, who has a 3.20 GAA during the skid, has started all but one game this season. The Flames are reportedly close to signing Curtis Joseph, who’s fifth all-time with 446 wins.

Kiprusoff is 2-1-0 with a 2.68 GAA against the Wild this season, and is 15-5-2 with one tie, three shutouts and a 1.76 GAA against them lifetime.

Captain Jarome Iginla, who was voted an All-Star starter, has no goals in his last four games after tallying eight in his previous six. Iginla, who has team highs of 32 goals and 29 assists, has scored a goal in each game against the Wild this season.

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Wednesday, Jan 16