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Showdown for first pits Avalanche against Flames

by Brian Hunter /

AVALANCHE (12-5-3) at FLAMES (12-4-2)

Last 10 -- Colorado 5-4-1; Calgary 7-2-1

Season series -- Second of six meetings this season between Northwest Division rivals, and Colorado's second trip already to Calgary. The Avalanche rallied for a 3-2 victory on Oct. 28, falling behind by two goals just 70 seconds into the game before fighting back. David Koci and David Jones tied the score before the end of the first period and Wojtek Wolski struck 5:31 into the third for the decisive tally. Craig Anderson recovered from a rough start to make 30 saves.

Big story -- Colorado owned the division and the Western Conference in general during the month of October, but now Calgary stands poised to take the Northwest lead with a win Tuesday. This is the beginning of a three-game road trip through Western Canada for the Avalanche, who made a similar trip a couple weeks back and defeated both the Flames and Oilers while losing to the Canucks.

Team scope:

Avalanche -- Colorado has lost three in a row (0-2-1) for the first time this season, including consecutive regulation losses at the Pepsi Center following a 6-0-0 start. The most recent loss came in blowout fashion, as Henrik Sedin recorded a hat trick in an 8-2 rout by Vancouver on Saturday.

"We're not coming off one of our better games," defenseman Kyle Cumiskey said. "We want to come out strong. All of these teams are close to us in the division, so we need to come out and play our best hockey.

"I think we've been a little lackadaisical the past few games. We haven't been playing like our normal selves. We have to simplify our game, chip pucks in deep and put shots on net."

Flames -- Calgary returns home after a 2-0-1 road trip and has won five of its last six. The Flames will also have forward Curtis Glencross back after he served a three-game suspension for a hit on Rangers forward Chris Drury.

Even though the end results of late have been positive, the team is playing added attention to detail in preparation for the showdown with Colorado. 

"We have to clean up the areas that we made mistakes in, but we got five of six points so we feel good going into tomorrow's game," forward Daymond Langkow said. "It's almost like we relax (with a lead) and teams sense that."

Who's hot -- Colorado forward Marek Svatos has three goals and four points in his last five games, while defenseman Kyle Quincey has four assists over the same span.

Calgary captain Jarome Iginla is heating up, with six goals in as many games. He's creeping up on Rene Bourque, who has a goal and three assists over his last four games, for the team scoring lead.

Injury report -- Defenseman John-Michael Liles (shoulder) and forward T.J. Galiardi (ankle) are traveling with the Avalanche and could return on the Canadian trip.

Stat pack -- The quick start Calgary got off to last time against Colorado was part of a season-long pattern -- the Flames have scored the first goal in 15 of their 18 games.

Puck drop -- Craig Anderson will make his 20th start of the season as first-year coach Joe Sacco continues to give him a heavy workload. Anderson has never appeared in more than 31 games in a season. Peter Budaj, who relieved for the third period against Vancouver but has seen just 80 minutes of action so far, could start the second half of a back-to-back in Edmonton on Wednesday.

"I always give thought to the schedule," Sacco said. "(Tuesday) night we'll go with Craig. I'll make my decision for Edmonton (Tuesday) night after the game in Calgary."

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