Canucks-Flames Preview

Losses in five of their last six have the Calgary Flames

floundering in the standings, and the footsteps are getting louder

from the surging Vancouver Canucks.

The Canucks will seek a third straight victory on Sunday night

as they open a four-game road trip in Calgary, where Vancouver

goalie Roberto Luongo had major problems in a pair of early season

visits.

The Flames (20-11-5) looked like one of the best teams in the

Western Conference during their fast start, which included a pair

of 5-3 home wins over Vancouver in October. In those games, they

scored nine goals on 41 shots in five periods against Luongo.

But Calgary went 1-3-2 in its final six games before Christmas,

including three home losses in that stretch. A late Mark Giordano

goal helped the Flames salvage a point from Wednesday’s game

against St. Louis, but the Blues won 2-1 in a shootout.

“We had a good effort (Wednesday), definitely a step in the

right direction,” Giordano said, “but we need to start getting some

wins.”

A lack of offense has often been an issue lately, with the

Flames totaling 19 goals in 10 December games. Leading scorer

Jarome Iginla has just two of his 19 goals during that stretch,

while star defenseman Jay Bouwmeester has one assist in his last 11

games after totaling 13 points in his first 25 contests.

“I think we are working hard in the offensive zone but we are

not creative enough,” Iginla told the Flames’ official Web site.

“It’s getting to the right spots for the shots.

“We’ve hit a rough patch,” the captain added. “Every team goes

through it at certain times of the year. It is how you respond to

it. This is a chance to move up in the standings and get feeling

good about ourselves.”

That’s just what Vancouver (22-16-0) has been doing lately,

pulling within one point of its western Canadian rivals in the

Northwest Division, with both teams on the fringes of playoff

position in the West.

Luongo may have a good chance to reverse his fortunes at the

Pengrowth Saddledome if he continues his hot streak. The workhorse

had a 2.02 goals-against average during Vancouver’s recent

eight-game homestand, playing every minute and leading the Canucks

to a 6-2-0 record.

Vancouver bookended the Christmas break with a pair of 4-1 home

victories, beating Nashville on Tuesday before a win Saturday night

against Edmonton.

Daniel Sedin had a goal and two assists in each game, with his

twin brother Henrik totaling two goals and three assists in that

stretch. Henrik Sedin is having perhaps his best season, as he’s

tied for second in the NHL with 49 points.

“Individual success comes from team success,” Ryan Kesler said

of Henrik Sedin’s rise up the scoring chart. “He’s playing well for

us, and he’s helping the team win.”

A bigger challenge for the Canucks may be sustaining their

success during this road trip, which will carry them south to

Phoenix, St. Louis and Dallas and into 2010. They are just 6-10-0

on the road, and they haven’t played outside of Vancouver since

Dec. 8.

The Canucks have lost five of their last seven visits to

Calgary.