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Avalanche aim to continue mastery of Flames

by Brian Hunter
AVALANCHE (25-15-6) at FLAMES (26-14-5)

Last 10: Colorado 6-4-0; Calgary 6-3-1

Season series:
Fourth of six meetings this season between Northwest Division rivals who are separated by just one point in the standings. The Avalanche have won all three matchups this season by 3-2 final scores: Oct. 28 and Nov. 17 in Calgary, and Dec. 13 in Colorado. Craig Anderson has bested Miikka Kiprusoff in each game.

Big story: Colorado's mastery of Calgary to this point is a major reason why the Avalanche remain in solid position in the Northwest -- although they begin play Monday in third place, they can leapfrog the Flames with a win and could also overtake the Canucks, depending on their result Monday against the Predators.

Team Scope:

In need of a win following tough losses to the Islanders and Hurricanes, the Avalanche gutted one out Saturday night against one of top teams in the Eastern Conference. Rookies Matt Duchene and Brandon Yip staked Colorado to a 3-1 lead, but Buffalo rallied with a pair of third-period goals to force overtime and eventually a shootout. It took 11 long rounds, but the Avs finally prevailed as Matt Hendricks scored the deciding goal and Anderson stopped eight of the 11 attempts by the Sabres.

"We got off to a great start and kind of got on our heels in the third," Yip told the Denver Post. "But we found a way to win in the shootout with that unbelievable move by (Hendricks)."

Flames: Jamie Lundmark was playing in the AHL a week ago, but suddenly he's back up with the big club and the center of attention. After being recalled from Abbotsford he was placed on the top line with Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen, and on Saturday night Lundmark responded with a goal in regulation plus the shootout winner as Calgary took over sole possession of first in the Northeast with a 3-2 win over Vancouver.

"Obviously, to come up from the minors and be playing with Olli and Iggy, it's big for me," Lundmark said. "I'm just trying to go out there every night and do whatever I can to help the team win."

Who's hot:
It's all about those rookies in Colorado. Duchene, who turns 19 on Friday, is justifying going No. 3 in last year's Entry Draft, as he now has 13 goals and 29 points. Yip, a grizzled veteran in comparison at age 24, has five goals, eight points and a plus-4 rating in his first 10 NHL games.

Rene Bourque has scored in consecutive games for Calgary. Kiprusoff has won five of his last six starts and allowed just one goal four times.

Injury report:
Avalanche captain Adam Foote is likely to miss Monday's game with an ankle injury -- he would join fellow defensemen Brett Clark (bruised cheekbone) and Ruslan Salei (back) and forwards Marek Svatos (groin) and David Jones (torn left ACL) on the shelf. … Veteran forward Craig Conroy has been placed on injured reserve by the Flames with a foot injury.

Stat pack: Anderson has already set career highs in games played (38), minutes (2,277), wins (21) and saves (1,219) in his first season with the Avalanche. … Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester has two goals, 15 assists and is tied for the team lead with a plus-11 rating in his first season with the Flames.

Puck drop: Calgary won the first four games of last season's series with Colorado but has now dropped five straight dating back almost a year to Jan. 18, 2009. The frustration of losing to the Avalanche again was evident last month.

"I thought tonight's game was a very, very important game. But obviously it was just the coaches who thought that," Flames coach Brent Sutter said. "It's a tough League to be average in."

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