Season series – This is the fourth meeting this season between two Northwest-division rivals whose playoff hopes are going in drastically different directions. They last played New Year's Eve in Calgary, a 3-2 Flames victory in which grinding forwards Tim Jackman and Tom Kostopoulos combined for 2 goals and 4 points. The teams had split their previous two matchups.
Big story – In a tight Western Conference, Colorado and Calgary’s seasons have been complete opposites. The Avalanche started the season 13-9-2 and appeared poised to build off of their eighth-place finish last season. Calgary, on the other hand, started 16-18-2, a rough start that forced General Manager Darryl Sutter to step down Dec. 28. But the new year has reversed both teams' fortunes, the Avs plummeting towards the Conference basement as the Flames rocket up the standings.
Flames –Since Sutter's departure, Flames coach and Darryl's younger brother, Brent Sutter, has sparked his team to a 12-4-5 record, placing them in the thick of the Western-Conference playoff picture. On Saturday night, the League-leading Canucks interrupted the Flames’ scorching play of late.
Calgary led 2-1 but Mikael Samuelsson tied the game before scoring again on the power play just 2:40 later, giving the Canucks a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The loss ended a Flames’ run in which they earned points in 10 straight games.
Avalanche – After starting hot, the Avalanche have had a tough stretch of late. They have lost a franchise-record seven games in a row and gone 6-15-2 since their season-long six-game win streak was snapped Dec. 21.
Saturday night in Nashville, the Avs blew a 3-2 third-period lead as the Predators exploded for three straight goals [including an empty netter] to top Colorado 5-3. Many hoped the return of Peter Forsberg would light a fire under the team, but after just two games, he decided on Monday to retire. He finished his latest and final comeback with no points, four penalty minutes and a minus-4 rating.
Perhaps most surprising was Sacco’s decision to scratch high-scoring winger Chris Stewart and bench star defenseman John-Michael Liles.
"We're looking for ways just to get a win right now," Avs coach Joe Sacco said. "We turn it over one too many times and it ends up in the back of our net."
Who's hot – Jackman has 3 goals in his last three games while Calgary teammate Curtis Glencross has a goal in four straight games. Not to be outdone, Calgary captain Jarome Iginla is riding a five-game point streak in which he has 7 points. … For Colorado, David Jones has 3 goals in his last three games and has already established a new career-high with 19 goals this season.
Injury report – For the Flames, winger Alex Tanguay remains out indefinitely with a concussion while Daymond Langkow (neck), Raitis Ivanans (concussion), and Adam Pardy (upper body) are on IR. … Colorado captain Adam Foote is doubtful with a leg injury, as is goaltender Craig Anderson, who has left the team for personal reasons. Peter Mueller (concussion), Kyle Quincey (shoulder), Tomas Fleischmann (blood clots in lungs), Kyle Cumiskey (head), and TJ Galiardi (forearm) are all on IR.
Stat pack – Over the past decade, few division rivalries have been so evenly matched. Since the 2000-01 season, these two teams have played to a virtual dead heat, with Calgary having a 26-23-5-6 record against Colorado.
Puck drop – As a head coach in the National Hockey League, Sacco has a unique connection with Flames defenseman Steve Staios. On Mar. 10, 2002, Sacco and Staios, playing for the Capitals and Oilers respectively at the time, fought in a 4-2 Washington win. The battle began with a shoving match involving Sacco's then-teammate, Steve Konawalchuk, who now serves as his assistant coach.