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
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
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
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
The Canucks have lost five of their last seven visits to