PYONGYANG, North Korea -- Former NBA star Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea on Thursday to meet leader Kim Jong Un and put the finishing touches on plans to bring 12 ex-NBA players to Pyongyang for a Jan. 8 exhibition game marking the leaders birthday. Rodman said the game is on track despite the recent execution of Kims uncle in a dramatic political purge. Rodmans visit comes less than a week after North Korea announced the execution of Jang Song Thaek, an unprecedented fall from grace for one of the most powerful figures in the country. Jangs execution sparked speculation by foreign analysts over the future of the Kim regime. But officials in Pyongyang say Jangs removal has not caused any instability. Rodmans visit -- should it proceed uneventfully -- could be a sign that Kim is firmly in charge. Rodman told The Associated Press in a brief interview at his Pyongyang hotel that he was undaunted by the recent political events. "I cant control what they do with their government, I cant control what they say or how they do things here," he said. "Im just trying to come here as a sports figure and try to hope I can open the door for a lot of people in the country." Rodman and Kim have struck up an unlikely friendship since the Hall of Famer travelled to the secretive state for the first time in February with the Harlem Globetrotters for an HBO series produced by New York-based VICE television. He remains the highest-profile American to meet Kim since the leader inherited power from his father, Kim Jong Il, in 2011. "Ive come over to see my friend, and people always give me a little hard time about me saying that," said Rodman, who was given the red carpet treatment at the airport by Vice Sports Minister Son Kwang Ho and O Hun Ryong, secretary-general of the North Korean Basketball Association. "Im very proud to say hes my friend, because he hasnt done anything to put a damper, to say any negative things about my country." Rodman has not yet announced the roster for the game. He is also expected to train North Korean basketball players during his several-day stay in Pyongyang and to meet with Kim, though he did not give any details about what his plans are. He said, however, that if after the 12 former NBA players go home they say "some really, really nice things, some really cool things about this country," then he has done his job. Known as much for his piercings, tattoos and bad behaviour as he was for basketball, Rodman has mostly avoided politics in his dealings with the North. Hes mainly focused on using basketball as a means of boosting understanding and communication and studiously avoided commenting on the Norths human rights record or its continued detainment of an American, Kenneth Bae, for allegedly committing anti-state crimes. 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Rookie Sean Monahan netted his team-leading 14th goal, Lance Bouma also scored and Karri Ramo made 30 saves as the Flames snapped a four-game overall slide with their first win at home since Dec. 23 versus St. Louis. "We needed that," said Stajan, who signed a four-year, $14 million contract extension on Monday. "Weve been fighting it here on home ice, theres no secret to that. We got some timely goals and Ramo did a good job there. And as a team, we didnt give up much. Most of the shots were from the outside. We can start building off that one." The Flames play the second contest of their five-game homestand tonight and are expected to give Ramo the start again. He faced the Predators for the first time in his career on Jan. 14, giving up four goals on 34 shots in a 4-2 road loss. Lee Stempniak and Mikael Backlund had the goals in a losing effort, with Jiri Hudler assisting on both. 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Nashville claimed the opener of a four-game road trip and has won two straight as well as four of its last five games. The club last won three in a row from Dec. 10-14. Last night featured the Predators debut of defenseman Michael Del Zotto, acquired from the New York Rangers in a trade a day earlier for blueliner Kevin Klein. Del Zotto was paired with Jones and logged 13:15 of ice time, though the offensive-minded defender did not see power play time. Though Hutton won his fourth straight start, yielding seven goals in that span, the Predators could still opt to give Devan Dubnyk his second start in a Nashville uniform tonight. Acquired earlier this month from Edmonton, Dubnyk yielded five goals on 29 shots on Jan. 18 in a loss to Colorado in his Nashville debut. However, Dubnyk is 6-4-2 with a 2.27 goals against average in his career versus the Flames, shutting them out with 27 saves when he faced them on Dec. 27 with the Oilers. Wholesale Jerseys ' ' '