by Marc Ciampa
December 9th, 2002

AP Photo

Division Points: The Flmaes need points in most games to get back into things, but absolutely need to pick up points against division foes.

TONIGHT'S GAME:

If the Flames (7-13-4-3; 5th Northwest Division) havenít stepped up their search for a head coach yet, thereís a good chance that they will start to do so following tonightís game.

Despite their loss on Saturday at home to the Minnesota Wild, the Vancouver Canucks (16-7-4-0; 1st Northwest Division) remain the hottest team in the NHL. Theyíve been dangerous foes to every single team thatís crossed their path in the past month. The Canucks have already lost once at home to Calgary this season and will be determined not to let it happen again. All signs point to a big loss for the Flames.

On March 1, 1992 the Flames lost 11-0 in Vancouver. Letís hope that record stays in tact at the end of the evening.

KEYS TO SUCCESS:

  • Avoid embarrassment. Vancouver is going to be fired up tonight, especially in light of their loss on Saturday to Minnesota. The Flames have already been blown away 7-2 twice this season and itís in their best interests to not make this the third.
  • Keep it simple. A "back to basics" strategy is what netted the team three points in four games. That might not be enough tonight but itís worth a shot.
  • Roman Empire. Turek was outstanding the last couple of games. Take away all the offence, the coaches and even the general manager and it all comes down to netminding. Turek has to be great for this team to win.

BY THE NUMBERS:

Statistically, Calgary and Vancouver is a tale of two teams. Canucks average 3.04 goals per game (7th), the Flames average 2.04 (30th). Canucks have a 2.44 GAA (9th), Calgary has a 2.96 GAA (21st). Vancouverís power play is 11th in the league, at 18.3% while Calgaryís is toiling in 27th at 11.7%. Amazingly, a month ago Calgary was ahead of Vancouver in the standingsÖ It wonít be easy for Calgaryís struggling power play to score tonight, as Vancouverís penalty killing ranks second in the league at 88.6%Ö While Jarome Iginla has struggled to regain his form of last season, Vancouverís trio of Markus Naslund (31 points), Todd Bertuzzi (30 points) and Brendan Morrison (27 points) have each picked up where they left off in 2001-02Ö If Vancouver has any weakness, itís that their second line experiences a large drop off in production While the Canucks top line has accounted for 88 points total, the teamís second line (Sedin-Sedin-Klatt) has 36. To account for this, head coach Marc Crawford has played Henrik Sedin (15 points) between Naslund and Bertuzzi on occasion to try and spread the wealth. Daniel Sedin (10 points) has been a healthy scratch on several occasions this year.

ROSTER UPDATES:

Calgary: Bob Boughner (broken thumb) and Jamie Wright (neck) might play tonight. Boughner in particular will be a game-time decision. Mathias Johansson and Steve Begin are both suffering the effects of the flu but are likely to play.

Vancouver: Ed Jovanovski is still awaiting word from the league on his suspension for hitting Wild defenceman Jason Marshall Saturday. Sami Salo (groin) is likely to suit up.

WHO TO WATCH:

Calgary: Craig Conroy has played very well in the last five or six games despite being relegated to a line with Rob Niedermayer and Scott Nichol. Chris Drury and Jarome Iginla donít seem to be clicking as a duo, however, so that may spark a move to reunite Iginla with Conroy.

Vancouver: The biggest reason the Canucks played so well in November is NHL Player of the Month Dan Cloutier. If heís on his game tonight, it will be a long night for the leagueís worst offence.

QUOTABLE:

"Oh, they can move you any time. (Winningís) never been a deterrent. My history, check on that."óFlames interim head coach Al MacNeil on whether the teamís current unbeaten run might keep him behind the bench.

"(The unbeaten streak) does bring us the luxury of time, although I don't want the luxury of time. I don't think it's a case of winning or not winning. Al's made it pretty clear to me -- and he's made it pretty clear publicly -- that he'll do anything that's asked of him. But on a longer-term basis, he's made it clear that he doesn't want to do that. It takes a lot of energy and effort to be a head coach. Al knows it as well as anybody."óFlames general manager Craig Button on the coaching situation.

HEAD TO HEAD:

The Flames and Canucks have split their previous two meetings this season.

FLAMES LAST 10 GAMES vs. CANUCKS

NEXT MEETING:

The Flames visit Vancouver again next Sunday.

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