Morning Skate Report: Flames vs. Wild
SHUTTING DOWN THE WILD
After Saturday's loss in Calgary, Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo lamented his team fell into a "bit of a track meet" and fell away from their game plan. The team wants to avenge that loss and get back to playing a defensively tight, smothering game but the Flames have other plans.
"They're trying to be a defensively-minded team," Bob Hartley explained. "One thing is that they're going to try to jam about their blueline, create turnovers and that's where their skill can really cause some damage. We have to be careful.
"We don't want to get caught in that kind of trap. We have to make sure that we make smart decisions in between the two bluelines, making sure that our reads are accurate. After this, get on the rush or get on the forecheck to create offensive chances."
The Wild sit 29th in goals scored this season with 35 markers in 17 games played, scoring 20 of those on home ice, but are in the top ten in goals against thanks to their strong play in their own end. The key for Calgary will be implementing an absolutely ferocious forecheck, cycling the puck down low and utilizing one of their strongest assets: their speed.
"If they play it tight, you have to use your speed," winger Lee Stempniak noted. "If you start to play slow and methodical, it really plays into their hands. For us, I think a lot of it going to be on regroups; trying to stretch a guy and hit them with a pass then have two guys with speed that can come in on the forecheck.
"The time you do get a step on someone, you really need to attack with speed."
LET'S GET PHYSICAL
If Saturday's game was any indication, fans can expect to see a hard-hitting clash between the Flames and the Wild tonight. The physicality ramped up as the game rolled along on Saturday as the two divisional rivals battled to move up in the Western Conference standings and Chris Butler is expecting more of the same tonight.
"We seem to have really good battles with them over the last couple of years," the defenceman said. "We've been at similar points in the standings so we're always fighting for that position.
"With them being a handful of points ahead of us tonight and this being a four-point game, I expect it will be fast-paced and physical. But it is important that we stay out of the box because they have a lot of high-end skilled guys that can burn you on the power play."
The Flames have put more of an emphasis on playing a harder, grittier game as of late and have thrown 43 hits in their last three outings.
"As a team, we've been trying to play a little more physical and with more edge," Stempniak said. "That leads to more checks and just more physical confrontations. I'd expect that to be the norm as the season goes along and there is more of a push for the playoffs."
PUSHING PAST .500
A win tonight will put the Flames over .500 (they are 7-7-3 this year), a big motivating factor for the club.
"It's time for the flirting to be over. Let's get married. Let's go to church," Hartley chuckled. "It's the only way where we can have a chance to be in the playoffs. .500 will not even be close enough.
"Everyone in the dressing room is aware of this ... we have to keep playing our game, keeping challenging ourselves for more and at the same time, (make sure) that complacency is not part of our dictionary."
Last season, two Flames scored their first NHL goals in the Xcel Energy Center. Rearguard TJ Brodie first tally was the game-winner on Nov. 27, 2011 when the Flames topped the Wild by a score of 5-2.
Sven Baertschi, who is still looking for his first of the 2013 season, potted his first NHL goal on Mar. 11, 2012 in a 4-3 Flames victory.
WHAT THE OPPOSITION IS SAYING
"On Saturday, we started off the first period pretty strong but we dipped a little bit. Tonight, we'll be different. We'll play for a full 60. We'll play our system and be fine." - Charlie Coyle, who is on Minnesota's top line tonight
FLAMES FANTASY HOCKEY TIPS
Putting Jarome Iginla on your roster tonight is probably a solid choice. The captain is coming off of a two-goal outing on Sunday and has been a Wild killer throughout his career. The winger scored two game-winners against Minnesota in 2011-12 and racked up six points (four goals, two helpers) in six outings last season. In 69 career games versus the Wild, Iginla has accrued 35 goals and 65 points.
Curtis Glencross put up great numbers against Minnesota in the 2011-12 campaign. He scored three goals and posted six points in six games and was a plus-three in the season series. The forward currently sits fifth in team scoring with 11 points (seven tallies, four assists).
Last Saturday, pivot Matt Stajan scored two goals - one of which being the game-winner - against the Wild and put forth another strong performance in Sunday's 5-4 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes.
MILESTONES WITHIN REACH
Matt Stajan needs 3 points for 300 and 10 assists for 200.
Cory Sarich needs 4 points for 150 and 5 games for 900.