Preview: Flames vs. Blues
BLUES (38-17-7) at FLAMES (28-23-11)
Last 10: St. Louis 7-3-0; Calgary 4-1-5.
Season Series: This is the fourth and final matchup, and the first in three months, between these Western Conference franchises. St. Louis has won two of the previous three meetings, including their last contest on Nov. 25, a 2-0 Blues win in which David Backes scored the shorthanded winner and Brian Elliott made 24 saves for the shutout.
Big Story: With 83 points, the Blues boast one of the League's best records and are positioned to enjoy home ice in the first round of the playoffs at the very least. After starting a six-game road stretch with consecutive wins, there are no signs of the Blues slowing down. The Flames, on the other hand, remain within striking distance of a playoff spot, but three straight losses to start a four-game homestand that will end with St. Louis certainly hasn't helped.
Blues: For most teams, a 9-4-0 record in February would be cause for celebration. For the Blues, it's actually a step back following an 8-1-2 record in January. Starting a stretch in which they play 14 of 18 games on the road, St. Louis won 3-2 in a shootout in Nashville on Thursday before entering Winnipeg on Saturday to play a hot Jets team.
Against the Jets, Backes and David Perron gave St. Louis a 2-0 first-period lead that would normally be more than enough for a team that allows fewer goals per game than any team in the League. But a pair of goals from Blake Wheeler in the second period gave the Jets new life. Despite being outshot 42-16, the Blues soon found themselves in a shootout, where Perron scored in the fourth round to give St Louis the 3-2 victory. The win was in large part due to goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who stopped 32 shots just in the first two periods.
Flames: Calgary has been on the periphery of the Western Conference playoff race for much of the season and the hope was that a stretch in which they would play seven of nine games at home might propel them into a playoff spot. But their first game in that run was a humbling 6-1 loss to the provincial rival Edmonton Oilers. The Flames followed that loss with a 4-3 shootout defeat against Phoenix on Thursday before hosting the Flyers on Saturday.
At home against Philadelphia, Tom Kostopoulos scored with the Flames down a man to give Calgary a 3-0 lead more than halfway through the game. But three unanswered goals from the Flyers would tie the game before Alex Tanguay gave the Flames a short-lived 4-3 lead in the third period. Just 1:32 after Tanguay's marker, Scott Hartnell replied with his second goal of the third period. With 41 stops from Miikka Kiprusoff, the game would go to the shootout, where Matt Read's goal in the fifth round of the final frame put the Flames on the wrong side of a 5-4 game.
Who's Hot: Perron has been pacing the Blues offense, with 12 points in his last 11 games while Patrick Berglund has five assists in his last six games. … Tanguay has been providing plenty of offense for the Flames, with four points in his last two games. Not to be outdone, Matt Stajan has goals in his last two games.
Injury Report: Matt D'Agostini (concussion), Jamie Langenbrunner (broken foot), and Alex Steen (concussion) are all on Blues IR while Kris Russell is out indefinitely with concussion-like symptoms. … The Flames are missing David Moss (ankle), Chris Butler (lacerated thigh), Lee Stempniak (ankle), Mikael Backlund (arm), and Blair Jones (broken ankle), who are all on IR.
Stat Pack: Blues goaltender Brian Elliott earned his first career All-Star appearance this season, but he might not be the best goaltender on his own team. Halak has been practically unbeatable in the second half of the NHL season, going 15-3-3 in his last 22 starts, earning five shutouts in his last 13 games. He has also made 30 or more saves in three of his last six games.
Puck Drop: Monday will see former Flames great Al MacInnis honored as the first-ever inductee into the "Forever a Flame" program. MacInnis, who played 802 games with Calgary, will appear with his family in a pre-game ceremony.
"Certainly it's a special honor," MacInnis told the Flames' web site. "I'm excited. My family is excited to get back to Calgary and see some old friends and family, some old teammates and it should be a special couple of days and I am looking forward to it. It's a great honor and I have a lot of special and fond memories from the 13 years I spent with the Flames."