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AVALANCHE (4-4-1) at FLAMES (6-3-0)
TV: TSN (HD), ALT (HD)
Season Series: First of six meetings this season between these Northwest Division rivals. Colorado won the first four matchups of the 2009-10 season, all by 3-2 scores, the last in a shootout. Calgary then responded with 3-2 and 2-1 victories to close out the series. Rene Bourque of the Flames led all scorers with 5 goals. Eleven different players scored at least once for the Avalanche, while Craig Anderson started all six games in net.
Game day update: The Flames are riding a three-game winning streak heading into tonight's game against the northwest division rival Colorado Avalanche. With the loss of starting goaltender Craig Anderson, the Avs will look to Peter Budaj to hold down the fort and get the job done while Anderson is out indefinitely.
"I think I work hard and prepare myself for this situation whenever I get a chance to play," said Budaj, on being up for the task to take over as the starting goaltender. "Seems like I'm going to play more games than usual but I'm excited and it's a good challenge for me and it's a good test."
Head coach Brent Sutter has also decided to give Henrik Karlsson another start between the pipes for the Flames. Karlsson's strong play in his first NHL game in Columbus has earned him his first start at home against the Avalanche.
"If I'm playing they believe I can do it," said Karlsson on starting in net tonight. "I still have a lot to prove and I have to earn my time on the ice. I feel confident but you have to stay sharp all the time. They are really skilled players so I'll have to be focused."
"It's a situation where we wanted to get him in and we got him in and took him out when we wanted him to watch a couple games and get through some system stuff with him," said Sutter. "Again it's a coach's decision to change the line-up and I decided tonight that Mikkelson goes in and Staios comes out."
On another note, Niklas Hagman did not attend pre-game practice today however coach Sutter assured that he was only off for maintenance reasons. Sutter noted that Hagman will be a game time decision after warm up. David Moss did practice again with the team today however it is also unknown if he will be ready to join the lineup tonight and will also be a game time decision.
Conroy's 1000th game: Conroy, 39, is set to hit the major 1,000-game milestone Thursday against Colorado. Conroy will become the eighth player to reach the 1,000-game mark as a Calgary Flame. The Flames will hold a special ceremony for Conroy before the start of the game tonight to honour his great accomplishment.
"Last night I slept great," said Conroy. "I think maybe I slept a little less leading up to the game thinking "Am I going to get it? When am I going to get it?" Now that it's here, my teammates have been great. It's been fun and we've been joking around and having lots of fun with it."
Big Story: Anderson won't be available for Colorado on Thursday, and perhaps not for some time after he injured his knee while warming up for Tuesday's game in Vancouver. The team announced Wednesday that Anderson will be "out indefinitely" but won't require surgery. The extent of the injury was not given and there was no timetable for Anderson's return.
Avalanche: Peter Budaj figures to be the main man for Colorado in Anderson's absence -- the backup stepped in Tuesday on short notice and battled opposing goalie Roberto Luongo into overtime before the Avalanche fell 4-3 when Mason Raymond chipped the puck off the stick of defenseman Jonas Holos and past Budaj at the 28-second mark. The Avs led 1-0 and 2-1 on goals by David Jones and Daniel Winnik, then fell behind 3-2 in the third but forced the extra period when Matt Duchene scored with 1:33 remaining.
"I should have tried to go behind the net instead of cutting in," Holos told the Denver Post in regards to the fluke play that resulted in the Canucks' overtime goal. "It shouldn't happen and I am sorry about it."
Flames: All of a sudden, Calgary is scoring goals -- and the result is that the Flames have won three in a row and sit atop the Northwest. After splitting their first six games while managing only 11 goals and getting shut out twice, they've lit the lamp 15 times in the past three contests. That includes Tuesday's 5-4 shootout win over the Oilers in another exciting Battle of Alberta. After the Flames let a 4-1 lead slip away, Alex Tanguay saved their bacon by scoring the only goal in the penalty-shot tiebreaker.
"We didn't play a smart third, but we won and it's a big two points," said Brendan Morrison, who scored on the power play and shorthanded.
Who's Hot: Chris Stewart has 4 goals and 5 assists for the Avalanche during a six-game points streak. Milan Hejduk has 3 goals and 5 assists during a four-game points streak. … Morrison, who was released by the Canucks from his tryout contract during training camp, has 3 goals and a team-leading 9 points for the Flames. Rene Bourque has 5 goals and 2 assists during a three-game points streak. Tanguay has 1 goal and 3 assists during a three-game points streak.
Injury Report: In addition to Anderson, defenseman Adam Foote (concussion) is out indefinitely for Colorado. Forwards David Koci (broken jaw) and Peter Mueller (concussion) are on injured reserve. … Calgary has defenseman Adam Pardy (shoulder) and forwards Daymond Langkow (neck), Ryan Stone (knee), David Moss (shoulder) and Ales Kotalik (knee) on injured reserve. Forward Raitis Ivanans (concussion) is out indefinitely.
Stat Pack: John-Michael Liles hasn't scored a goal yet this season, but he leads the Avalanche in points with 11 assists and also set a new NHL record for defensemen Tuesday with an assist in his ninth-straight game to begin the season. Filip Kuba of the Senators held the previous mark of eight games with an assist to start the 2008-09 season. … Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff has shutouts in two of his last four games.
Puck Drop: Budaj started four-straight games last December after Anderson suffered a neck injury against Florida and won two of them, including a 35-save shutout in St. Louis. All six games between Colorado and Calgary last season were decided by a single goal, and the change in goalies shouldn't affect that dynamic -- expect another close one.
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