Flames-Hurricanes Preview

The Associated Press

Finally seeing the puck go in the net was a relief for the Calgary Flames, even if they weren't able to pull out a victory.

After having their winning streak snapped, the Carolina Hurricanes could have captain Eric Staal back when they look to deal visiting Calgary a fourth straight loss Monday night.

The Flames (15-24-6) were shut out in five of their previous seven games before ending their scoreless stretch at 174:59 as Mikael Backlund scored in the third period Saturday against Pittsburgh.

"It's hard when you chase and chase and you get scoring chances and the puck doesn't go in,'' Backlund said. ''It gets in your head a little bit. It shouldn't, but it's natural.

''As soon as you score one, everybody settles down a little bit and you feel better.''

Backlund's goal wasn't enough, though, as Calgary lost 2-1 for its seventh defeat in eight games.

''On the mental side (scoring a goal) is good, but it's another loss,'' coach Bob Hartley said "'But I can't fault the effort. (Saturday) was by far one of our best games lately.''

The Flames failed to convert on five power-play chances and dropped to 1 for 26 with the man advantage over their last eight.

''If we could have scored a couple power-play goals, we could have won the game. That was the difference,'' Backlund said. ''We had a few power-play opportunities and we didn't score, and it's been like that for a while.''

Backlund assisted on Chris Butler's goal in overtime as Calgary beat Carolina 2-1 on Dec. 12.

The Hurricanes also were held in check offensively Friday, when they fell 3-0 at Columbus. Jeff Skinner had seven goals and five assists during a seven-game point streak that was snapped.

The defeat ended a five-game winning streak for Carolina (19-17-9), which played for the third straight time without Staal due to a lower-body injury suffered Jan. 4 against the New York Islanders.

Staal, who leads the Hurricanes with 25 assists, practiced Sunday and could return for this contest.

"We're going to see how I respond after a good practice today and how I feel (Monday)," Staal told the team's official website. "I'm feeling good now, and it's getting better. It was smart to take a step back when I did."

Carolina has four days off before its next contest against Florida on Saturday, and coach Kirk Muller is not going to rush Staal back if his captain needs more rest.

"We've got to see how he responds. We want to be smart," Muller said. "We have all the days off after that, so we want to make sure if he's ready to go (Monday), it's nothing that sets him back."

Cam Ward hasn't played since Dec. 31 because of a lower-body injury, but Anton Khudobin has filled in nicely, going 4-1-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average since Ward went down.

Khudobin made 21 saves Friday and could be in net for his first career start against the Flames, who may counter with Karri Ramo after Reto Berra made 24 saves in the second of a back-to-back set Saturday.

Ramo is 1-3-2 with a 3.31 GAA over his last six starts, but he made 29 saves in the first meeting with the Hurricanes.

Calgary hasn't visited Carolina since a 6-5 shootout win Jan. 11, 2011.

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