Wild-Flames Preview


Coming off an impressive road win, the Minnesota Wild are starting to pick up steam.

That doesn't bode well for the Calgary Flames, who haven't had much of a home-ice advantage.

The Wild try for a season-best third consecutive victory Saturday night as they visit the last-place Flames.

After a slow start, Minnesota (8-6-2) appears to be hitting its stride. The Wild improved to 4-1-1 over their last six games Thursday with a 3-1 win at Edmonton.

Minnesota fell behind in the second period before rallying behind Matt Cullen, who scored twice and set up Devin Setoguchi's go-ahead goal early in the third. The Wild have won two of three on the road after opening 0-3-1 in opponents' arenas.

"It was a step forward for us," Cullen said. "It's a big deal for us to get a road win and it was good to see us respond to a bit of adversity and come back with a fight.

"As a team we have to establish that. That when you are down one that you are going to be OK and make that push."

Minnesota's only other road victory came 2-1 in a shootout Feb. 11 at Calgary (5-7-3), which had its home woes continue Wednesday with a 3-1 loss to Los Angeles. The Flames have compiled a 2-5-2 record on their own ice while allowing an average of 3.7 goals - the NHL's second-worst mark.

"Overall, it hasn't been good enough," captain Jarome Iginla said. "Usually you're talking about ways to win on the road, but you definitely have to find ways to win at home to move in the standings and not to slide."

Defenseman T.J. Brodie provided all the offense Wednesday with his first goal and Joey MacDonald stopped 30 of 33 shots, dropping to 1-2-0 with a 3.09 goals-against average as he helps to fill in for the injured Miikka Kiprusoff.

"Joey MacDonald gave us a great game, but the bottom line is we have to be a grittier team," said coach Bob Hartley, who wasn't pleased with his team's response after MacDonald was run over in the second period. "It's as simple as this. We need to be in people's face. They ran our goalie. There was no consequences to this, and that's just not acceptable."

Calgary is averaging a league-low 8:52 of penalty time.

"We might not have the biggest team, but when you play as a team, you have to stick up for your teammates," Hartley said. "And if it means you need to take a slap for the entire team or whether we go five guys, I think team unity is very important. We have a great group of guys, but we're just not playing tough enough."

Calgary can't be looking forward to another possible matchup with Niklas Backstrom, who made 23 saves in last week's win. The Finnish veteran is 6-1-0 with a 0.90 GAA and three shutouts in his last eight starts at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Backstrom made 27 saves Thursday, improving to 3-0-1 with a 1.42 GAA over his past four outings overall.

"I think he's been playing great hockey for us lately," coach Mike Yeo told the league's official website. "He looks calm, he looks comfortable in the net, in control. When you have that, it's amazing the confidence that feeds to your team."

The Wild could be without Cal Clutterbuck after he was helped off the ice following a knee-to-knee hit Thursday.

"Cal is a very important part of our team and has been playing very well for us lately," Cullen said. "You hate to see a teammate on the ice. It looked like it could be pretty bad."

Minnesota and Calgary meet again Tuesday in St. Paul.