Under new coach Brent Sutter, the Calgary Flames hoped to make a deep run in the playoffs for the first time since reaching the Stanley Cup finals in 2003-04.
They certainly didn’t think just reaching the postseason would become an issue.
Calgary hopes to jump into playoff position Wednesday night when it hosts the Minnesota Wild in the teams’ first game following the Olympic break.
After being eliminated from the playoffs in the first round for the fourth straight season, the Flames (30-23-9) hired Sutter to replace Mike Keenan on June 23.
Calgary looked like one of the league’s elite teams with a 25-12-5 record through Jan. 5, but dropped 11 of its next 12. That skid fueled the trade of star defenseman Dion Phaneuf(notes), who went to Toronto on Jan. 31 in a seven-player deal that brought forwards Niklas Hagman(notes), Matt Stajan(notes), Jamal Mayers(notes) and defenseman Ian White(notes) to Calgary.
The Flames continued to reshape their team two days later, trading center Olli Jokinen(notes) and left wing Brandon Prust(notes) to the New York Rangers for forwards Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik(notes).
Calgary, which hasn’t missed the playoffs since 2002-03, is ninth in the Western Conference.
Iginla scored his team-leading 27th goal in a 3-1 win over Anaheim on Feb. 13, the Flames’ last game before the break. He has six goals in his last 10 games after scoring once in his previous 15 contests.
“We had a lot of shots and we had a lot of quality scoring chances,” Iginla said. “It’s a good way to go into the break.”
Kiprusoff has provided the Flames with steady goaltending again this season, ranking fourth in the league with a 2.18 goals-against average. He has dominated the Wild throughout most of his career but is 0-2-1 with a 3.28 GAA in the past three meetings.
Minnesota (30-27-4) trails Calgary by five points and will play four of its next six on the road, where it has lost seven of eight and is 9-19-2.
In a sign the Wild may be giving up on the season, they dealt Eric Belanger(notes) to Washington for a second-round draft pick shortly before Wednesday’s trade deadline. The 32-year-old center, who will be a free agent this summer, had 13 goals and 22 assists in 60 games and ranks seventh in the NHL with wins on 57.6 percent of his faceoffs.
In their final game before the break, the Wild matched a season high in goals with a 6-2 victory over Vancouver. Guillaume Latendresse(notes) continued his red-hot offensive play, scoring one of his team’s four power-play goals to help Minnesota avoid a third straight loss.
Latendresse has 18 goals and eight assists in 36 games since joining the Wild in a trade with Montreal. He has four goals in his last six games and has matched his career high with 29 points.
The Wild are 2-0-0 this season against the Flames, winning 2-1 in a shootout at Calgary on Dec. 11. Minnesota has won the last three matchups after dropping five straight meetings and 10 of 11.