Blue Jackets-Flames Preview
By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
(AP) -- Back-to-back games against teams on the outside of the Western Conference playoff race were expected to give Jarome Iginla and the Calgary Flames a good chance to vault into postseason position.
Now, they're hoping one win will be enough.
Iginla looks to help the Flames possibly gain a share of a playoff spot when they face the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets at Scotiabank Saddledome on Sunday night.
Calgary (34-26-12) is two points behind the eighth-place tie between San Jose and Los Angeles for the final playoff position in the conference. However, the Flames are also one point back of Phoenix, which visits Edmonton.
Calgary seemed to be in ideal position to gain a slight advantage in the race, entering Friday's matchup with the Oilers having won five straight. Instead, the result was a 3-1 loss to the team at the bottom of the Northwest Division.
"We got on the wrong side of penalty trouble," Iginla said. "We've been playing well. This is a little hiccup, but we'll get right back at it."
The Flames will now try to rebound against the Blue Jackets (22-42-7) - the only team in the NHL mathematically out of the playoff race.
Calgary, though, is 1-1-1 in the season series, including a 4-3 shootout loss at home on Dec. 1.
Still, the Flames hold a 14-3-3 all-time advantage when hosting Columbus.
Iginla will likely have a hand in re-establishing that success after having his eight-game point streak halted by the Oilers. The Calgary captain had eight goals and six assists during that stretch, giving him team highs of 31 goals and 62 points.
Iginla had a third-period goal before scoring the decisive shootout tally in a 2-1 win at Columbus on Dec. 27. He failed to record a point in the most recent home matchup, but has 16 goals and 14 assists in 21 career home games against the Jackets.
Defenseman Mark Giordano has eight goals and 15 assists on the season, collecting three and four, respectively, over the last six games, including the Flames' lone goal Friday.
Miikka Kiprusoff is expected to be back in net after being rested Friday.
Kiprusoff has a chance to win a sixth consecutive start for the first time since Oct. 21-Nov. 1, 2008. He's a remarkable 11-0-3 with a 1.88 goals-against average and two shutouts in 14 lifetime home meetings with the Jackets.
Columbus appears destined to finish with the fewest points in the NHL, and hasn't helped its cause with a four-game slide.
The Blue Jackets' woes continued Saturday with a 4-3 loss at Vancouver. Despite yet another defeat, star left wing Rick Nash came away encouraged with the performance against the top team in the Northwest.
"I thought it was a good game by us," Nash said. "We had a couple of minutes each period where we sat back and they definitely took advantage of us. But for the most part we stuck with it and kept ourselves in the game.
"I think the big difference is our mistakes. Every time we made a big mistake they scored a goal."
Nash is trying to avoid a seventh consecutive game without a point, tying the longest drought of his career set from Dec. 8-23, 2007.
He has a goal in every other visit to Calgary over the last seven contests, scoring in the most recent before netting the shootout winner Dec. 1.
Updated March 18, 2012