Flames host Wild trying to extend recent surge

( - The Calgary Flames will try to keep building their case for the playoffs when they host the Minnesota Wild in Thursday's battle at the Saddledome.

Calgary picked up its fifth win in six games Tuesday, as the club began its post-All-Star scheduled with a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres. It marked a positive start to a six-game homestand for the Flames, who ended a three-game slide on home ice and improved to 12-9-2 as the host.

With 55 points, the Flames currently hold the last of two wild card spots in the West. Calgary is one point ahead of the Los Angeles Kings for that distinction and five points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the first wild card berth.

Josh Jooris, Joe Colborne and Johnny Gaudreau scored in a span of eight-plus minutes in the third period to help the Flames down Buffalo and the lowly Sabres to a 12th straight loss.

Gaudreau added a first-period strike and Jiri Hudler added a pair of assists for the Flames.

"We had some big goals," said Flames coach Bob Hartley. "In the second period we could have scored four or five goals. We missed the net on a few occasions, but I felt that we got our legs."

Jonas Hiller backed up his timely offense with a 17-save effort, his first win since Dec. 31. Hiller will start again tonight and own an 11-5-1 record and 2.39 goals against average in his career against Minnesota.

The Wild ended a two-game slide in its first game following the break, picking up a 2-1 regulation win Tuesday in Edmonton. The close victory improved Minnesota's record over the last five games to 3-1-1, but the club is still seven points behind Calgary for the West's last playoff spot.

Charlie Coyle scored Tuesday's game-winning goal with 4:23 remaining in regulation. The deciding effort came after Coyle skated down the left side past two defenders, dragged Viktor Fasth out of his net and capped off the play by tucking the puck into the net from below the goal line.

"We came out to win, that's all that matters," Coyle said. "It's always nice to help out on the scoresheet."

Nino Niederreiter also scored and Devan Dubnyk made 23 saves for the Wild, who improved to 10-13-1 on the road this season.

Dubnyk is 2-1-0 since coming over from Arizona in a trade and he could get the start again tonight. He is 6-5-3 with a 2.42 GAA in his career against Calgary.

The Wild are playing the third part of a four-game road trip tonight and will close the swing Sunday in Vancouver.

Tonight's game marks the first of three meetings between the Flames and Wild this season. Minnesota is 6-2-1 over the past nine encounters, but Calgary has claimed four of the past six meetings at the Saddledome.