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Gameday Primer: Early surge key

Getting up on the Wild early will be important in tonight's match-up

Sunday, 28.12.2008 / 10:05 PM / News
By Mike Board  - CF.com Digital Content Director
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Gameday Primer: Early surge key
FLAMES LEADING SCORERS

Regular Season
Player
GP
G
A
P
Iginla 35 16 24 40
Cammalleri 34 12 17 29
Langkow 35 9 16 25

Record: 20-11-4
Season Series: 1-0-0
Last Five: 4-0-1

vs.

Record:
17-15-2
Season Series: 0-1-0
Last Five: 2-3-0
 WILD LEADING SCORERS

Regular Season
Player
GP
G
A
P
Koivu 34 11 24 35
Miettenen 34 8 16 24
Brunette 34 10 11 21

Flames vs. Wild
7 p.m. MT Pengrowth Saddledome
Sportsnet West and The Fan 960

THE MATCH-UP

Get on them early. That will be the battlecry for the Calgary Flames tonight as they host Northwest Division foe Minnesota, a team struggling to start games of late.

The Wild have developed a habit of giving up the first goal of late. They have been scored on first in their last 10 games, including a 4-1 loss at home to Chicago on Sunday before travelling to Calgary. Through that stretch they are 2-7-1. To make matters worse for the Wild, they have scored just twice in the first period over their last 11 games. The Flames, coming off a big, come-from-behind win over Ottawa at home on Saturday, should have plenty of jump to get things started tonight. Calgary is 12-3-3 when scoring first this season.

After a good start to the season, the Wild were 14-7-1 through the first two months of the season, Minnesota is having a December to forget. They are 3-8-1 in the Christmas month.

"This whole month has been all over the map," noted Wild veteran Andrew Brunette, the team's third-leading point-getter.

The Flames, meanwhile, are putting together a December to remember and currently hold down first spot in the tight, Northwest Division. The Flames are 6-2-3 with two games remaining in the month, tonight against Minnesota and Wednesday against Edmonton. Calgary has also compiled a strong record in the Northwest -- they are currently 7-3-1.History shows if you win more than you lose in your own division, you are going to be in a playoff race of some sort.

Calgary owned the Wild last season, compiling a 6-2-0 record against the tight-checking Jacques Lemaire crew. In the first meeting between the two teams this season the trend continued as the Flames beat the Wild in overtime on a Todd Bertuzzi goal. The Flames are 8-2-0 in their last 10 against Minnesota and the Wild have not won in Calgary since March, 2007.

Jarome Iginla paced the Flames with six goals and five assists against the Wild while Marian Gaborik had four goals and nine assists in seven games against the Flames last season. However, Wild coach Jacques Lemaire announced over the weekend that the team will be resting Gaborik who has already missed much of the season because of a groin injury.

The hot hand on the Flames belongs to Rene Bourque at the moment. The Flames newcomer, who came via a trade with Chicago in the summer, had three goals against the Sens in a 6-3 win Saturday and has six goals in his last six outings. The big, strong, winger has a hard shot and, obviously, a nose for the net.

"He's a big guy and he can skate really well," said defenceman Adrian Aucoin, who played with Bourque in Chicago. "He certainly seems to be doing the right things here."

“He continues to improve," said head coach Mike Keenan of Bourque. "He is accelerating his performance level to a point where he can play in any position, in any circumstance, power play, penalty-killing, regular shifts. He’s adding a lot of speed to his game and confidence is part of that process. He continues to improve as a player and is playing very confident hockey right now.
 
“He’s a good hockey player and I don’t know what the issues were in terms of his development before if there were any. Maybe he is just at a point in his career and his life where he is more confident and mature and he’s certainly responded to more ice time.”


PLAYERS TO WATCH

For the Flames…

Phaneuf

Defenceman Dion Phaneuf hasn't scored in 18 games which means he is overdue. He is still logging around 28 minutes a a game and remains a dangerous ope-ice hitter as well as a player who can lug the puck up the ice for the Flames. He aimed seven shots at the Senators on Saturday. Three got through, two missed the net and two were blocked.

For the Wild...

Koivu

Miikko Koivu leads the Wild in scoring this season. He is shouldering a big load with star Marian Gaborik sidelined with groin woes. He is a hard-worker who usually earns every goal he gets. Problem is he isn't an elite player in the NHL and can't carry the entire Wild team, which is struggling to put the puck in the net.


NOTEWORTHY
The Flames have points in their last seven games with four wins, two overtime losses and one shootout loss...Rene Bourque, who had a hat trick against Ottawa Saturday, had seven shots on net in the game. He now has 14 goals this season, two shy of his career-high, set while a Blackhawk in 2005-06...Flames captain Jarome Iginla had five shots on goal against the Sens but has not tallied a goal in four games...F Curtis Glencross, out with a knee injury, is back skating with the team. He is likely to return to the line-up for New Year's Eve against Edmonton...
QUOTABLE
"It's a good feeling. You know what? Sometimes the puck just goes in and some nights it doesn't." - Flames forward Rene Bourque on scoring his first NHL hat trick Saturday.

 

"We've got win the home games. We've got to put a string together and put some distance between us and eigth in the conference" - Flame forward Craig Conroy on the tight race in the west.
FLAMES MILESTONES

Todd Bertuzzi needs three power play goals for 100
Craig Conroy needs three points for 500
Jarome Iginla needs 5 games for 900
Jarome Iginla needs 10 goals for 400

THE ROSTER

The Flames will be without D Rhett Warrener (shoulder); D James Vandermeer (leg); F Brandon Prust (fractured jaw) F Wayne Primeau (foot) and F Curtis Glencross (knee).