Thursday, February 26, 2004

GameDay: vs. Calgary (31-23-5-3, 70) 9:00 EST

With a terrible start to their Western Canada trip, gaining 1 of 4 possible points versus Edmonton and Vancouver, and Wings will try to scrounge up two points tonight as they face the ever-struggling Flames. Legace will get the start. Under the leadership of Jarome Iginla, the Flames currently hold the sixth seed in the West and are third in the tough Northwest Division. They are 6-6-1-0 in their last 13 games. Goaltending phenom Miikka Kiprusoff is expected to start tonight. He is 15-5-2 in 23 games, and leads the NHL in both goals against average and save percentage, with a 1.49 and .940. In November, the Sharks traded Kiprusoff to the Flames for a 2005 second-round draft pick because they already had Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala. But that trade is looking more interesting by the day, as the Sharks hold the third seed in the West with a lead in the Pacific Division over Dallas. If the seeds hold for both the Flames and Sharks, the third seed meets the sixth seed first round, so we could see Kiprusoff going against his old team in the Sharks. Most recently, the Flames struggled on a road trip, going 2-3. On Tuesday, they beat Colorado 2-0, with Kiprusoff getting the shutout, his second of the season, fifth of his career. Reflecting the turbulent playoff race, the Flames' Martin Gelinas: "The win was big for us. We went from eighth to fifth with this win." They have since dropped to sixth. Notables: Glen Sather resigned as New York Rangers coach, and Tom Renney stepped in as interim coach effective Feb. 25. Joel Quenneville was fired as St Louis Blues coach, and Mike Kitchen replaced him effective Feb. 24. Bob Francis was fired as Phoenix Coyotes coach, and Rick Bowness is the interim coach effective Feb. 24. While the Coyotes and Rangers are unlikely to make the playoffs and will likely dump contracts very soon, the Blues are 2 points out of the playoffs, trailing division rival Nashville for the eighth seed at 69 points. I am surprised that the Blues made such a move, but it is likely in hopes that such a shakeup fires the team up. Quenneville is a good coach, and will be picked up in the offseason. Under Quenneville, the Blues won the Presidents' Trophy in the 1999-2000 season. They always were a good division rival of the Wings, letting us beat them up for an easy playoff round win many a time. But in all seriousness, I think that Quenneville deserves a tap of the stick for his efforts down in St Louis. The Wings may play with only four defenseman tonight. On Tuesday versus the Canucks, Chris Chelios hurt his left shoulder after 245-pound Todd Bertuzzi fell on it in the second. Mathieu Dandenault has a bruised right wrist after blocking a shot in the third. He played the rest of the game on adrenaline, but may not be able to play tonight. He can barely hold his stick. Woolley has been unable to play the past four games with his bad back. If needed, Kirk Maltby could jump back and play defense. Assistant captain and forward Brendan Shahanan has only one goal in his past 21 games. Coach Lewis comments: "I wish he could score more. He's on every power play. You'd like to see him pop the odd one in. But he's had some chances, and I'm hoping for him to break out."


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