Flames-Wild Preview

Mikko Koivu stepped up for the Minnesota Wild when they needed

it most. They’re likely hoping for a repeat performance against the

Calgary Flames.

Minnesota will look to snap a season-high three-game losing

streak at Xcel Energy Center on Monday night in the back end of a

home-and-home series with the Flames.

Koivu had a goal and two assists to help Minnesota avoid a third

consecutive loss overall with a 3-1 victory in Calgary on Saturday

night.

“When you’re struggling a little bit it’s hard on everyone,”

said Koivu, who has nine points in his last his six games. “You

have to find a way to come out of it. You have to work as hard as

you can and just believe in yourself.”

The Wild (14-13-4), who won despite matching a season low with

16 shots, are 12-6-3 when their captain registers at least one

point and 5-1-0 when he scores a goal.

“Mikko was tremendous in the game. He was great. He stepped up,

and the rest of the team followed,” Wild coach Todd Richards said.

“I truly believe that teams follow their leaders. We have other

leaders on the team, but when you’re wearing the ‘C,’ that’s one of

the responsibilities.

“The team takes on your personality, takes on how you play the

game.”

Niklas Backstrom made 14 of his 28 saves in the third period and

improved to 6-1-1 with a 1.25 goals-against average in his last

eight games against Calgary.

Backstrom, though, is 0-2-1 in his last three home starts

overall, losing 3-2 in a shootout to the Flames on Dec. 3.

Saturday’s loss prevented Calgary (14-16-3) from a perfect

three-game homestand, and the team now plays three straight on the

road, where it has two wins in the last 11 games (2-6-3).

“We knew the importance of the game. They did, too,” said Flames

captain Jarome Iginla, who had a nine-game point streak snapped.

“They were coming off two losses. They were a very desperate team.

It’s not like we gave them a million chances. They were

opportunistic.

“They got a power-play goal, and we didn’t capitalize on our

chances. In a tight game, that was the difference.”

The Flames are 18-2-1 against the Wild when Iginla scores at

least one goal. His 31 goals versus the Wild are his most against

any opponent, 13 more than Milan Hejduk and Daymond Langkow, who

are next on the list.

Calgary is averaging 2.2 goals on the road compared to 3.1 at

home, but failed to get on the board until late in the third

period.

“We didn’t play the whole game like we played the last eight or

nine minutes,” said Matt Stajan, who scored his first goal in 19

games with 5:17 remaining. “If we played like that the whole game,

there’s not doubt how that game would have turned out.”

Miikka Kiprusoff allowed more than two goals for the first time

in five games, dropping to 7-12-1 in his last 20 starts. He is

0-4-0 with a 3.08 GAA in his last four visits to Minnesota.