Preview: Flames vs. Stars

Wednesday, 15.02.2012 / 6:43 PM / Calgary Flames Budweiser Game Day
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Preview: Flames vs. Stars




The Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars each are competing for one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference, and they may have plenty of opportunities to overtake one another down the stretch.

Visiting Calgary seeks its fifth straight win over Dallas in the first of four meetings over the next 20 games Thursday night.

The Flames (27-22-8) pulled within one point of eighth-place Phoenix in the West with a 5-1 win over Toronto on Tuesday, while the Stars (28-25-3) failed to pick up ground in a 3-1 loss at Detroit the same night.

Calgary has gone 4-0-2 in February as it pushes to qualify for its first postseason appearance in three years.

"Every point matters now and we're trying to make up ground to get that last playoff spot," said forward Paul Byron, who scored on a penalty shot in the second period in his first NHL game in a month following a stint in the minors. "(Tuesday) was a huge game for us, and I thought we played really well."

Dallas fell three points behind the Flames and has lost three straight. Coach Glen Gulutzan said his team's effort was improved - it was hardly surprising that the Red Wings won an NHL-record 21st straight at home - though the Stars need to start picking up points if they hope to make the playoffs.

"We stayed to our game, we didn't allow them a lot of turnovers, I thought our gaps were better, we didn't give them the line too much," Gulutzan said. "Those are little steps, but at the end of the day, we need results. You take what you can and you got to move forward."

The Flames and Stars will play their entire season series over the next six weeks, culminating in a home-and-home set March 24 and 26, and Calgary seems to hold the edge if last season is any indication.

It swept the Dallas franchise for the first time since 1991-92, when the Flames went 3-0-0 against the Minnesota North Stars. Miikka Kiprusoff won three of the four meetings in 2010-11 while posting a 2.22 goals-against average.

Kiprusoff made 41 saves in Tuesday's victory and is 4-0-1 with a 1.74 GAA this month.

He got help from the top line of Alex Tanguay, Olli Jokinen and Jarome Iginla versus Toronto, as each player netted a goal.

"We're feeling better about the way we're playing as a line," Tanguay said. "We feel that when we play good ... that we can be one of the top lines in the league, as well."

Tanguay scored in the shootout to help Calgary to a 4-3 win at Dallas in the most recent meeting March 9, and he has seven goals and eight assists in his last 13 games versus the Stars.

Dallas has been outscored 8-3 in losing its last two games at American Airlines Center, where Kari Lehtonen is 3-6-1 with a 2.49 GAA in his last 10 starts.

Lehtonen has a 3.09 GAA in six lifetime starts against Calgary, including three losses last season.

No matter who is in goal, the Stars likely will need to provide more offensive support. They've scored two goals or fewer in 12 of their last 14 games - a 4-8-2 stretch - and leading scorer Jamie Benn has gone pointless in four of his last six.

Benn has a four-game point streak against the Flames.