by Marc Ciampa
December 5th, 2002
|Win Streak?: After a brutal November, can the Flames make it two in a row in December?
Still without a coach, the Calgary Flames (7-13-3-3; 5th Northwest Division) hope to win their second in a row in a long time against a team they would like to emulate, the Minnesota Wild (13-7-5-1; 2nd Northwest Division).
Minnesota is a team that’s short on talent but in only their third season in the NHL, strong coaching has enabled them to sit currently in the top four in the conference. What the Wild lack in ability they make up for in strategy. Flames general manager Craig Button likely has that in mind as he searches for a new bench boss.
The Flames sit 12 points back of the Wild, a team they must ultimately catch in the standings if they hope to make the playoffs this season. A win tonight is pivotal, as making up 10 points over 65 games is a possibility, however remote, but 14 would be a stretch.
A win tonight would also move the Flames back to within five points of a playoff spot which is a good start in the right direction.
KEYS TO SUCCESS:
Execute the system. Greg Gilbert is now ancient history as head coach, but the Flames showed last game that if his system is executed perfectly they have the ability to win some games. The team will still be implementing his system tonight and they can’t afford another let-down.
Block out distractions. There’s no head coach on the team right now, but the team can’t let that be a hindrance to their play, whether they’re wondering who might take up the helms or if they might have a job when the new coach comes in.
Goaltending. When Roman Turek makes the big saves this team is like night and day.
BY THE NUMBERS:
At –15, Jarome Iginla has the worst plus/minus rating in the entire NHL… Contrary to popular belief, the Flames have had a lot of success against the Wild since Minnesota’s second inception into the NHL (5-2-2-2 record). The Flames have also won the last three meetings at the Saddledome… No surprise, but Stephane Yelle has finally come back to earth. He only has one assist in his last 13 games, and only one goal in his last 19. Calgarian Wes Walz is also in a slump, with one goal in his last 18 games. Cliff Ronning has one goal in his last 11… Minnesota has the best team save percentage in the NHL, at .925… On their official website, the Flames have amended their poll on who should be the next coach of the team. They’ve taken out Ron Wilson and added Ted Nolan, Bob Gainey and Larry Robinson.
Calgary: Bob Boughner (broken thumb), Jamie Wright (neck), Steve Begin (flu) and Jordan Leopold (shoulder) are all out. Jarome Iginla (groin), Robyn Regehr (thumb) and Craig Conroy (foot) are all likely to suit up. Jamie McLennan (back) might be well enough to back up Turek tonight.
Minnesota: Bill Muckalt (shoulder) and Darby Hendrickson (broken arm) are out. Willie Mitchell (ribs) is questionable.
WHO TO WATCH:
Calgary: It’s been awhile since Roman Turek put together two solid games back to back so all eyes will be on him tonight to turn in a big performance… It seems Iginla and Conroy are both starting to turn their seasons around somewhat. Both have been horrendous on home ice this season so tonight will be a good test.
Minnesota: Marian Gaborik has come into his own and is well on his way to becoming a bona fide NHL star with 15 goals already this year. Manny Fernandez is having an outstanding season on the heels of his disappointing 2001-02 campaign but has lost his last three games. If he plays tonight he will be tough to beat.
"I'm in the cross-hairs every day. When you take this position, there's scrutiny and people watching. That's the business we're in and I don't shirk from that. The biggest thing I want is for this team to be successful." –Flames general manager Craig Button, who realizes if the team fails to make the playoffs this season his job is likely in jeopardy.
"I think it's about a person who can get the job done. Period. That's what you're looking for, someone that can lead the team, co-ordinate the team and get the team to perform together. I certainly feel the importance. It is important. We believe we have a capable team. I know at a different point in time I felt we were capable of being a top-four team in the Western Conference. I don't know if that's possible based on how we started but I do believe we have that potential." –Button on what he’s looking for in a coach.
"He brought in a couple of guys he'd coached in the Dallas organization but it was mainly a brand new team to him. I think he's a great coach and could work well here. I'd be excited if he did come in and think a lot of others would be excited. He's a great guy off the ice. He's a good teacher, the way (Gilbert) is. He'll let you learn and if he needs to, can have the mean streak if he needs to get your attention." – Chris Clark on potential head coaching candidate Jim Playfair.
"I don't think it's up to the players to decide if he likes a coach. You've got to play, that's your job. Play your (butt) off and if the coach asks you to play a certain way, that's what you do. We're not here to like coaches or dislike coaches and they're not here for players to like or dislike. They're here to coach and do what they think is right. That's how I think it is. His job is to motivate the team and get them to play the way he wants them to. I don't think a team doesn't try not to play for him but sometimes it doesn't work out. It doesn't matter to me. Everybody just wants to win and there's a lot of pressure to do that." – Flames enforcer Craig Berube.
HEAD TO HEAD:
Earlier this season, the Flames lost to Minnesota in overtime.
FLAMES LAST 10 GAMES vs. WILD
Calgary visits Minnesota on December 23.