Avalanche Host Flames In Battle For Northwest Lead
Sunday, 12.13.2009 / 4:00 PM
NHL.comFLAMES (19-8-4) at AVALANCHE (18-10-6)
Tonight's game will be broadcast on Altitude and Mile High Sports Radio AM 1510.
Calgary 6-2-2; Colorado 4-3-3
These Northwest Division rivals meet for the third time this season and the first time at the Pepsi Center in Colorado. The Avalanche have already claimed a pair of 3-2 wins in Calgary, on Oct. 28 and Nov. 17. Craig Anderson
bested Miikka Kiprusoff in both battles, and that will likely be the goaltending matchup again Sunday.
First place is at stake, with the winner gaining sole possession of the top spot in the Northwest. Each team has 42 points coming in, and while Calgary has been the hotter team of late, Colorado has consistently rebounded from any hiccups in what has fast become a surprising turnaround season. Safe to say, both sides will come out ready for this one.
"It's a huge game for us. They beat us last time they were here and we weren't happy about it. It's been our problem the whole time," Flames forward Curtis Glencross said. "We beat ourselves. As long as we play our own game and play the way that we can, there's not a team that can really touch us."
Miikka Kiprusoff was the No. 1 reason Calgary managed a point Friday night. Kiprusoff stopped 44 of 46 shots in a 2-1 overtime loss to Minnesota, which finally broke through for the winner when Martin Havlat finished off a brilliant give-and-go that had the goaltender out of position. Defenseman Aaron Johnson, who scored the Flames' only goal, said the team let Kiprusoff down.
"It started in the first period, giving up 19 shots against," he said. "It's not the way we play. We play well defensively, we don't let those shots through. Any time a team gets that many shots, you know we're doing something wrong."
For a long time Friday night it looked as though Colorado might not only drop its second straight on home ice but be shut out once again. Wojtek Wolski changed all that. He was credited with the tying goal when a Paul Stastny
centering pass deflected in off his leg with 7:49 remaining and he had the only goal of the shootout for a 2-1 win over Tampa Bay. Anderson returned for the Avalanche and made 21 saves besides stopping all three Lightning attempts in the penalty-shot tiebreaker.
"Lately we've been snakebitten," Wolski said after Colorado snapped a three-game home losing streak. "Tonight we really put the effort forth."
For the Flames, it begins in goal where Kiprusoff hasn't given up more than two goals in his last 10 starts. … Wolski is now tied for the Avalanche lead in goals with 12. He has points in 12 of his last 14 games, putting up three goals and 12 assists in that span.
Calgary defenseman Cory Sarich did not make the trip to Colorado due to an undisclosed injury. Forward Craig Conroy, who has missed the last two games, skated with the team Saturday and will be a coach's decision.
Colorado forward Milan Hejduk
looks unlikely to play Sunday due to a right knee injury. On injured reserve are forward David Jones
(torn left ACL) and defenseman Kyle Cumiskey
(foot) and Ruslan Salei (back).
Colorado's penalty kill, which ranks in the middle of the pack with an 80.8 percent success rate, has not yielded a power-play goal in the last four games, spanning 10 opportunities.
Anderson didn't face a lot of shots in his return from a brief injury absence, but his stop on Vincent Lecavalier to thwart a 2-on-0 break for Tampa early in the third was a play that helped Colorado gain momentum.
"That might have been the turning point in the game," Avs coach Joe Sacco told the Denver Post. "He doesn't make that save there, it could have been a different story. I've said it before, but all you can ask of your goalie is to give you a chance to win and he did that. He was strong."