Monday, November 29, 2010

Flames Might Face Theodore, Not Backstrom

From CBC Sports this morning.

After three straight woeful performances from goaltender Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild head coach Todd Richards could look to Jose Theodore on Monday night.

With the Calgary Flames' struggling to find the net, Richards might not go wrong with whoever he chooses to start at the Scotiabank Saddledome (9:30 p.m. ET).

Backstrom got off to a strong start in his first 14 games this season, going 8-4-2 with a 1.91 goals-against average. In his three consecutive defeats since, he has a 6.54 GAA and gave up a career-worst seven goals at Colorado on Saturday.

He allowed four of those in the second period of that 7-4 loss and was replaced by Theodore early in the third.
"[Backstrom] wasn't sharp, but the players in front didn't help him," Richards said. "I liked our first period, then the game gets away from us and we make a couple of mistakes — bad decisions with the puck.

"We gave up 20 shots in the second period. That's way too many opportunities."

While Backstrom has struggled mightily of late, Theodore is 3-1-0 with a 2.11 GAA in five appearances this month. He stopped 32 shots Friday night's in a 5-2 win over Nashville.

"We'll talk as a staff," said Richards, whose team has dropped three of four since a three-game win streak. "We'll talk to [goaltending coach] Bob Mason and figure out what's the best way to approach our game Monday night in Calgary."

Theodore also has a 2.15 GAA in his last five games against the Flames, but was pulled from a 5-3 loss for Washington on March 28 after giving up three goals in less than 11 minutes. Backstrom, meanwhile, is 5-1-0 with a 1.19 GAA in his last seven starts versus Calgary (9-12-2).

Backstrom stopped 33 shots in a 2-1 home win Nov. 5, the Wild's seventh in eight meetings with their Northwest Division rivals and third in a row.

Minnesota (11-9-2) is also seeking a fourth consecutive win at the Saddledome and will face a team that's scored five times in its last four games.

After recording their only win on a season-long trip the previous night, the Flames barely avoided a shutout Saturday at Pittsburgh, scoring with 6:57 left in a 4-1 loss.

"We didn't play well," Flames defenceman Mark Giordano told the team's website.

"We know we didn't play well. We know we have to get on a roll at some point and start piling up some wins."

While Backstrom has shined recently against Calgary, Flames starting goalie Miikka Kiprusoff has dropped seven straight to the Wild after winning 24 of his first 33 meetings.

Kiprusoff, though, has a 2.68 GAA during that skid and a 1.94 mark lifetime against Minnesota, his best versus any Western Conference opponent.

Martin Havlat, who has four goals and nine assists in his last eight games, has scored 12 times in 21 meetings with the Flames. Only his 13 goals against Nashville are more versus one opponent.

Havlat has five goals and seven assists in his last 10 matchups against Calgary.

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