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Anderson-less Avalanche challenge Flames

by Brian Hunter
AVALANCHE (4-4-1) at FLAMES (6-3-0)

TV: TSN (HD), Altitude (HD)

Season series --
First of six meetings this season between these Northwest Division rivals. Colorado won the first four matchups of the 2009-10 season, all by 3-2 scores, the last in a shootout. Calgary then responded with 3-2 and 2-1 victories to close out the series. Rene Bourque of the Flames led all scorers with 5 goals. Eleven different players scored at least once for the Avalanche, while Craig Anderson started all six games in net.

Big story -- Anderson won't be available for Colorado on Thursday, and perhaps not for some time after he injured his right knee while warming up for Tuesday's game in Vancouver. The team announced Wednesday that Anderson will be "out indefinitely" but won't require surgery. The extent of the injury was not given and there was no timetable for Anderson's return.

Team Scope:

Avalanche -- Peter Budaj figures to be the main man for Colorado in Anderson's absence -- he battled opposing goalie Roberto Luongo into overtime on Tuesday before the Avalanche fell 4-3 when Mason Raymond chipped the puck off the stick of defenseman Jonas Holos and past Budaj at the 28-second mark. The Avs led 1-0 and 2-1 on goals by David Jones and Daniel Winnik, then fell behind 3-2 in the third but forced the extra period when Matt Duchene scored with 1:33 remaining.

"I should have tried to go behind the net instead of cutting in," Holos told the Denver Post in regards to the fluke play that resulted in the Canucks' overtime goal. "It shouldn't happen and I am sorry about it."

Flames -- All of a sudden, Calgary is scoring goals -- and the result is that the Flames have won three in a row and sit atop the Northwest. After splitting their first six games while managing only 11 goals and getting shut out twice, they've lit the lamp 15 times in the past three contests. That includes Tuesday's 5-4 shootout win over the Oilers in another exciting Battle of Alberta. After the Flames let a 4-1 lead slip away, Alex Tanguay saved their bacon by scoring the only goal in the penalty-shot tiebreaker.

"We didn't play a smart third, but we won and it's a big two points," said Brendan Morrison, who scored on the power play and shorthanded.

Who's hot -- Chris Stewart has 4 goals and 5 assists for the Avalanche during a six-game points streak. Milan Hejduk has 3 goals and 5 assists during a four-game points streak. … Morrison, who was released by the Canucks from his tryout contract during training camp, has 3 goals and a team-leading 9 points for the Flames. Rene Bourque has 5 goals and 2 assists during a three-game points streak. Tanguay has 1 goal and 3 assists during a three-game points streak.

Injury report
-- In addition to Anderson, defenseman Adam Foote (concussion) is out indefinitely for Colorado. Forwards David Koci (broken jaw) and Peter Mueller (concussion) are on injured reserve. … Calgary has defenseman Adam Pardy (shoulder) and forwards Daymond Langkow (neck), Ryan Stone (knee), David Moss (shoulder) and Ales Kotalik (knee) on injured reserve. Forward Raitis Ivanans (concussion) is out indefinitely.

Stat pack --
John-Michael Liles hasn't scored a goal yet this season, but he's tied for the Avalanche lead in points with 11 assists and also set a new NHL record for defensemen Tuesday with an assist in his ninth-straight game to begin the season. Filip Kuba of the Senators held the previous mark of eight games with an assist to start the 2008-09 season. … Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff has shutouts in two of his last four games.

Puck drop -- Budaj started four games in a row last December after Anderson suffered a neck injury against Florida and won two of them, including a 35-save shutout in St. Louis. All six games between Colorado and Calgary last season were decided by a single goal, and the change in goalies shouldn't affect that dynamic -- expect another close one.

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