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Flames-Avalanche Preview

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The Calgary Flames stumbled in their last game, but appear to be running away with the Northwest Division.

They're certainly distancing themselves from the Colorado Avalanche.

The streaking Flames will try to win for the 10th time in 12 games on Sunday night when they head to Denver, where the slumping Avalanche will look to avoid falling to 0-5-0 against their division rivals this season.

Calgary (27-13-4) was tied with Vancouver atop the Northwest on Dec. 12, but has been nearly unstoppable following a 16-11-3 start. The Flames have gone 11-2-1 after that to open up a nine-point lead on the Canucks.

They lost for just the second time in the last month on Saturday, falling behind early and losing 4-3 at home to Phoenix despite two goals from Michael Cammalleri.

"We had chances right until the end to tie it up. Unfortunately we couldn't get it done," said Jarome Iginla, who had two assists. "We weren't as sharp probably early as we should have been, and it cost us."

While Calgary has played excellent hockey over the last month, the same can't be said of Colorado. The last-place Avalanche (22-22-1) have dropped three in a row and six of nine since Dec. 31, and they've only scored more than two goals twice in that span.

That was the case again on Friday against Edmonton, when Colorado peppered the Oilers' net with 39 shots but came away with a 3-2 loss.

"It's a tough one," Avalanche coach Tony Granato said. "You know all of our games the rest of the way are going to be like this - where you're going to have to find a way, when the game's on the line, to make the plays to get the win."

Shaky special teams have played a big role in Colorado's recent skid. The Avalanche are 3-for-29 (10.3 percent) on the power play in their last nine games, but their opponents have converted on 8-of-28 (28.6 percent) chances with the man advantage.

Goaltending has been an issue as well, and though backup Andrew Raycroft had been giving Colorado a lift, he's lost his past two starts after seven consecutive wins.

Peter Budaj - 13-19-1 with a 2.85 goals-against average - will start on Sunday, but he's winless in his past four outings.

"If you look at the big picture Peter's played pretty good for us this year, as has (Raycroft)," Granato told the team's official Web site. "I'm looking forward to getting him in there (Sunday) and expect him to play a great game."

Four of Budaj's losses have come against Sunday's opponent. The Flames have outscored the Avalanche 13-5 in winning all four meetings this season, and they've limited Colorado to one total goal in the last three contests.

Miikka Kiprusoff has started each matchup for Calgary, and he's dominated the Avalanche recently. In his last nine starts versus Colorado, he's 7-1-1 with a 1.57 GAA and two shutouts.

While Kiprusoff has kept the puck out of the net against the Avalanche, Iginla has helped spark the Flames offensively. He has 11 goals and 11 assists in his last 18 games versus Colorado.

Iginla, the Western Conference's only 50-goal scorer last season, has 18 - one behind Cammalleri - in 2008-09, but has been slumping recently. Iginla hasn't scored a goal in his last seven games and has been shut out in 12 of 13 overall.

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