A 5-0-2 run at home has helped keep the Calgary Flames near the top of the Northwest Division. Having that streak snapped by the first-place team, though, would severely hinder their chance of capturing the division title.
The Flames look to continue their home success and pull within one point of the first-place Wild when the teams meet Saturday night at Pengrowth Saddledome.
Calgary (38-26-10) stretched its home point streak with a 2-1 victory over Colorado on Thursday. Daymond Langkow and Craig Conroy scored first-period, power-play goals and Miikka Kiprusoff needed to make only 15 saves as the Flames improved their home record to 19-10-9.
That victory moved Calgary within one point of the Wild (40-26-9), but Minnesota’s 2-1 win at Vancouver on Friday restored the deficit to three.
“This was huge for us,” forward Matthew Lombardi said. “We’re chasing Minnesota right now and those guys are doing the same. It’s a good start in the right direction. We’ve got to keep going and keep looking forward to the next game.”
Calgary, which faces Northwest opponents in each of its final eight games, plays three of its next four at home before closing the regular season with four straight road contests, including a visit to Minnesota on April 3. The Flames have lost three of four away from home.
Kiprusoff has been outstanding, posting a 1.41 goals-against average and two shutouts during the 5-0-2 streak.
He has won five of six starts in 2007-08 against the Wild while recording a 1.98 GAA. He’s also 18-5-2 with one tie, a 1.70 GAA and three shutouts in 26 career starts versus Minnesota.
Flames captain Jarome Iginla has three goals and four assists this season against the Wild.
Calgary has won all three home games this season versus Minnesota, and is 11-2-0 with one tie in the series there since the start of the 2003-04 season.
The Wild appear to be back on track following a season high-tying five-game skid (0-2-3) from March 4-13. They are 3-0-1 in their last four, with the only blemish a 4-3 shootout loss to red-hot San Jose on Wednesday.
“It’s been like this for a month or two already, every game is to the last second. You can’t have a bad shift or a bad period or a bad game,” Backstrom said. “You have to be sharp and be ready form the beginning, but that’s what a hockey player wants, you want everything you do out there to count.”
Although the Wild are playing on back-to-back nights, it’s likely coach Jacques Lemaire will stick with Backstrom, who is 6-1-4 with a 1.76 GAA in his last 11 starts.
Since allowing five goals in his first start of the season against the Flames, Backstrom has been much sharper in his last four appearances versus them. He is 1-3-1 with a 2.57 GAA in five starts against Calgary in 2007-08.
Minnesota leading scorer Marian Gaborik has two goals and six assists in five games this season against the Flames. He has only three goals in 17 career games at Calgary.