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The Lonesome Crowded West - Hawks @ Flames Preview, Pre-game Thread, Tattoo Touch-Up

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Game Time: 8:30 PM
TV/Radio: Comcast Sports Net, WGN-AM 720
High On Fire: Matchsticks and Gasoline

It's hard to determine at this point in the season whether it should be taken as encouraging or demoralizing that the once lowly and still dysfunctional Flames have pulled themselves up by the short and curlies from the Western Conference basement and now sit one point out of a playoff spot by going 6-0-1 in their last 7, which included a 6 game win streak prior to Saturday's shootout loss to the Kings. A shootout loss, that, by the way, vaulted both the Kings and Flames ahead of the Hawks in the Conference standings. It speaks to the the parity (read: mediocrity) of the confrence that that's all it takes to get into the mix, and yet still here we are left waiting for the Hawks to put together such a run. In looking at the Flames as a team, they don't do anything particularly well - 16th in goals for at 2.7, 17th in goals against at 2.9, 23rd in power play at 15.7, and 17th in PK at 82%. The only thing they've been good at is keeping themselves afloat. They've been able to do so during their recent streak through the play of their two stalwarts, Miikka Kiprusoff and Jarome Iginla. Kipper has stopped 169 of 181 shots during the streak, good for a .934 save percentage, and Iginla has popped in 7 points during that time. The oft maligned Alex Tanguay has also contributed 9 points during that stretch, with a pair of 2 point nights and another where he was on the score sheet thrice. Fellow reclamation project Brendan Morrisson has also had 10 points during that time in the midst of a 7-game point streak to mirror the team's. Whether all this has come as a result of finally getting out from underneath Darryl Sutter's thumb, or the realization that Iggy and Kipper could damn well get traded if they can't at least be respectable, the fact of the matter is that they've finally regained some confidence as well as competence, if only out of desperation.

Speaking of desperation, it's getting to be that time for our Men of Four Feathers, who currently sit 10th in the West. While there was plenty of energy as well as some bad breaks in the game against Vancouver, a game they controlled the pace of for the most part, some things still need to be tightened up. The PK, which had been good for the 8 games prior, let the team down at key moments on Friday, and will need to remain sharp and focused under the tutelage of Mike Haviland. But most of all, the third periods need to be cleaned up. Too often this year have the Hawks allowed defeat to be snatched from the jaws of victory, unable to close teams out. They'll have to rediscover their killer instinct soon or they'll be watching in ignominy come April. The lineup tonight figures to be the same as Friday's, but with Corey Crawford in net. Crow will be looking to regain his form after a couple of less than stellar outings prior to the All-Star Break. There were also rumors of Troy Brouwer working with the top PP unit during practice in favor of Marian Hossa, but we'll see if that plays out in the actual game. The uphill climb continues tonight, one hopes the same level of effort and desire still remains from Friday. Let's go Hawks.