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Flames, Avs try to stay in playoff hunt

The Calgary Flames will host the Colorado Avalanche tonight at the Saddledome in a matchup between teams that are hanging by a thread in the Western Conference playoff race.

With just three games left in the regular season, the Avalanche are two points behind Los Angeles and San Jose, who are tied for the conference's eighth and final postseason berth. Los Angeles has five games left and plays tonight, while the Sharks are idle this evening and have four games remaining in their schedule.

Calgary's postseason odds aren't any better as the Flames trail LA and San Jose by three points with four games left.

Both the Avalanche and Flames have seen their postseason chances fade recently due to untimely losing streaks. Colorado is 0-3-1 in its last four trips to the ice, while Calgary has recorded just one victory over its last seven contests (1-3-3).

Colorado suffered a heartbreaking loss Wednesday night in Vancouver, as the Avs fired 43 shots at Cory Schneider in a 1-0 loss at Rogers Arena. The Canucks scored the game's only goal when Chris Higgins scored with 2:56 left in the first period.

"It is definitely tough if you consider the situation we are in," Colorado forward Milan Hejduk said after the game. "We don't have the situation in our hands anymore. We are kind of at the mercy of the other teams."

Semyon Varlamov took the loss as he gave up the one goal on 22 shots for the Avalanche, who were 7-1-1 in the nine tests before their current four-game skid.

Tonight's test marks the end of a three-game road trip for the Avalanche, who are 18-18-4 as the guest this season. Colorado won't play again until Thursday when it hosts Columbus in the opener of a season-closing two-game homestand.

The Flames were also held without a goal in their most recent outing, losing 3-0 in Wednesday's home test against the Los Angeles Kings. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick needed to make just 19 saves for his ninth shutout of the season.

"Our level of play has to be at a standard that's acceptable and tonight it wasn't," said Flames coach Brent Sutter.

Miikka Kiprusoff made 27 saves for the Flames, who appear headed for a third straight season outside of the playoffs.

Calgary is closing a three-game homestand tonight and is 21-11-6 as the host this year. After visiting Vancouver on Sunday, the Flames will return to the Saddledome to close the regular season on a two-game homestand.

The Flames won the first four meetings with Colorado this season before the Avalanche recorded an overtime win at home on March 20. Calgary has still taken 11 of 13 overall in this series and the Avs have lost four in a row and eight of their last 12 games at the Saddledome.