Avs aim to solve visiting Flames

The Colorado Avalanche are trying to keep their grip on a playoff spot, but two meetings with the Calgary Flames over the regular season's final weeks might not help much.

The Avalanche try to snap a nine-game slide to the Flames in tonight's big meeting in Denver.

With 83 points, Colorado is in a tight battle for a playoff position. It currently sits eighth overall in the Western Conference and has the same number of points as Phoenix and Dallas, which battle each other tonight.

The Kings and Sharks, who clash tonight in Los Angeles, are just a point behind the Avalanche and the Flames are also in the hunt with 81 points. Not helping Colorado is the fact that it has played the most games of all those teams and has just eight games left on the schedule.

Two of those are against Calgary, a team that Colorado hasn't beaten since Oct. 28, 2010 and not at home since Dec. 13, 2009. The Avalanche have lost all four meetings with the Flames this year, 11 of the past 12 encounters overall and seven in a row as the host.

The two clubs meet one final time after this on March 30 in Calgary.

The Avalanche can't afford a loss tonight as they look for a seventh victory in their past nine games. They wrapped up a successful three-game road trip with a big 3-1 win at the New York Rangers on Saturday.

Matt Hunwick scored, Gabriel Landeskog netted his NHL rookie-leading 21st goal of the season and Paul Stastny tallied into an empty-net to seal things. Semyon Varlamov came up big with 41 saves.

Colorado began its swing with a shootout win at Buffalo before a tough-luck 1-0 loss at New Jersey in a shootout on Thursday.

"We have no control over what the teams behind us do," said Hunwick. "We just have to take care of our business and getting five out of six points on this trip is huge."

Two points over the Flames would also be huge and Calgary will try to avoid a third straight defeat tonight. The Flames had a five-game win streak snapped with a loss at Edmonton on Friday, then suffered a 2-1 shootout defeat to visiting Columbus on Sunday.

Miikka Kiprusoff needed to make only 17 saves to get the game to a shootout, but gave up the lone tally in the tiebreaker. Matt Stajan had the game-tying goal in the third period for the Flames, giving him 10 points over his past 13 games.

"It's disappointing we didn't get two points out of it," said Calgary head coach Brent Sutter. "Obviously we need points and I thought after the first 15 minutes of the game we started moving and moving our feet and we started taking the momentum away."

The Flames played with Lee Stempniak for the first time in 22 games after he missed time with an ankle injury, but saw fellow forward Alex Tanguay leave the game in the second after taking an elbow to the head. Calgary is already playing without Mike Cammalleri, Tim Jackman, TJ Brodie and Lance Bouma due to upper-body ailments.