The Calgary Flames missed an opportunity to improve their standing in the postseason race in their last game, falling to a team desperate to stay alive in the Western Conference playoff race.
Calgary’s next opponent won’t have that same motivation.
The Flames continue their battle for playoff position when they try to complete a season series sweep of the lowly Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.
Calgary (44-28-6) is in good position to win the Northwest Division despite being locked in a tight battle with Vancouver for the title. Three of its four remaining games are against teams currently outside the Western Conference playoff picture and its other one is against the Canucks.
The Flames, though, didn’t help themselves out Friday night when they were flat throughout a 4-0 loss at Minnesota - their fourth defeat in six games. The Wild were fighting to stay in the playoff chase, but Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff thought his team should’ve played with the same intensity.
“It was a big game for us, too,” said Kiprusoff, who gave up three first-period goals and was briefly pulled by coach Mike Keenan before the first intermission. “So, it’s no excuses. We didn’t play that well.”
Calgary hopes to bounce back by continuing its dominance over Los Angeles (32-35-11). The Flames have won the teams’ first three meetings with an 11-4 scoring advantage in those games. They’ve also gone 10-1-0 with one tie in 12 home games versus the Kings since March 30, 2002.
The Kings have gone winless against the Flames only once, posting a 0-3-0 mark with one tie in 2001-02.
While its recent history against Calgary doesn’t bode well for Los Angeles, the club has to be encouraged after a 6-1 home win over Phoenix on Saturday night.
Rookie forward Brian Boyle scored twice in the first period, jump-starting the Kings offensively and helping them snap a three-game winless streak as they matched their highest goal total of the season.
The Kings had scored nine goals in their previous seven games, going 1-5-1 over that stretch.
“It was a great feeling to be able to help out, we’ve been having trouble scoring goals,” said Boyle, a first-round selection by the Kings in the 2003 draft who’s still trying to make his way in the NHL.
The 6-foot-7, 244-pound Boyle has three goals in four games since being recalled from Manchester of the AHL on March 27.
“I am trying to stay here for the rest of the year and hopefully string a few good games together,” he said.
Kiprusoff could make that a challenge, as he’s 3-0-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average in his first three meetings with Los Angeles this season. He made 36 saves for a 2-0 road win in the teams’ last matchup Feb. 12, improving to 12-5-1 with a 2.39 GAA lifetime against the Kings.
Los Angeles’ Jon Quick made 18 saves and allowed one goal in that February loss, his first career game against Calgary.
Quick could have another strong performance if the Flames continue to struggle with the man advantage. They’re 0-for-24 on the power play during their 2-4-0 stretch.
Quick has a 1.97 GAA over his last seven games, but he’s 2-4-1 in that span due to Los Angeles’ offensive struggles.