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Avalanche/Flames Notebook

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
Setting The Tone

If there were any lingering doubts about the importance of Colorado’s game in Calgary on Monday night – or how the teams felt about each other, for that matter – those uncertainties were quickly erased.

The game’s tone was set early, as Chris Stewart and Robyn Regehr dropped the gloves just 20 seconds in – the end result of Regehr giving Stewart an extra bump after deflecting the forward’s shot attempt into the netting. Regehr was forced to retreat to the locker room to take care of a bloody nose after the tussle, but returned to the penalty box shortly thereafter.

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The Stewart/Regehr scrap was just the undercard for a fight at 3:42 between heavyweights David Koci and Brian McGrattan. Koci, seeing his first action since Dec. 15 vs. Washington, went toe-to-toe with the Flames’ enforcer, with both players landing a handful of haymakers.

The teams weren’t done yet, as Cody McLeod and Brandon Prust went at it just five seconds later immediately following the ensuing faceoff.

“We expected the game to be like this, so we came out hard early,” said McLeod. “With it being such a big division game you knew things were going to be physical.”

What It All Means
Simply put, the Northwest Division is the most tightly contested division in the NHL. Coming into Monday night, three teams were separated by a single point atop the division, with the Flames (57 points) holding a slight edge over both Colorado and Vancouver (56 points apiece).

The Avs held the No. 6 spot in the Western Conference heading into tonight’s contest. Based on the standings and the results of the other NHL games on Monday, the club knew it could be anywhere from No. 3 to No. 7 in the conference on Tuesday morning.

No matter what the standings said, Monday’s game was destined to be a nail-biter. The Avs and Flames had met up three previous times this season, with each matchup resulting in a 3-2 Colorado victory.

That being said, it should have come as no surprise that the final score between the division rivals would be a 3-2 count tonight. Milan Hejduk and Chris Stewart scored in the shootout and Craig Anderson made 44 saves through the end of overtime to seal the victory for Colorado.

The Avalanche victory created even more of a log jam at the top of the Northwest, as the three-point game left both Colorado and Calgary with 58 points. Things could have been even more packed at the top, but the Nashville Predators pulled out a 3-2 victory over Vancouver tonight to hold the Canucks at 56 points.

Both Ryan O’Reilly and John-Michael Liles were struck in the face with pucks during the second period. O’Reilly was bloodied after being hit near the mouth just prior to Calgary’s second goal, while Liles was thumped a few minutes later when Cory Sarich tried to keep the puck in Calgary’s offensive zone. Both players went to the locker room, but returned before the end of the middle frame…Liles was originally credited with the Avalanche’s first goal, but after a review it was ruled that Stastny had tipped in the defenseman’s point shot…With Koci back in the lineup, Chris Durno was the Avalanche’s lone healthy scratch…Calgary didn’t register its first shot on goal until nine minutes into the contest when Dion Phaneuf finally tested Anderson.
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