|Resurgent Flames, banged-up Avs look to extend streaks|
Two teams dealing with adversity have gotten on a roll and will meet up in Denver on Monday night, so something has to give.
The Calgary Flames have overcome the resignation of embattled head coach Bill Peters to win four straight and start their climb in the Pacific Division. The Colorado Avalanche have been hit with significant injuries all season yet are still sit near the top of the Central Division after winning six in a row, including the last three on the road.
That's the backdrop for the third game of the season between the teams. The Flames are coming off a chippy 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night that kept the team perfect under interim head coach Geoff Ward.
The outside noise surrounding Peters' departure has started to subside, and Calgary is starting to get into a groove.
"The last two (games) have been the closest to complete as we've had," Ward said after Saturday's win. "It's better than the first two. And we're getting close. Guys are doing a real good job of sticking to the process.
"We're working back to get back above the puck again, and doing a real good job of tracks and reloads. ... I thought our guys are doing a really good job of staying with that process, and it's paying off for us right now."
The Flames haven't had a lot of success against Colorado of late. They were the top seed in the Western Conference for the 2019 playoffs but were steamrolled in five games by the eighth-seeded Avalanche. Colorado has won the first two games this season, including one in Calgary.
The Avalanche hope to make it three straight this season, but they are again dealing with injuries. After getting top-line forwards Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog back last week, second-line center Nazem Kadri (lower body) has missed the last two games, and goaltender Philipp Grubauer and rookie defenseman Cale Makar left Saturday's 4-1 win in Boston with injuries.
Head coach Jared Bednar didn't have an update on either player after the game, and Colorado did not practice Sunday, so their availability for the Flames won't be known until Monday morning at the earliest.
If Makar can't go, it's a big loss for the Avalanche. He leads all rookies in scoring (28 points) and is a vital part of the power-play unit. With fellow defenseman Erik Johnson out for a few weeks, it depletes Colorado's blueline unit.
The Avalanche have survived the injury bug with a huge season from center Nathan MacKinnon and contributions from others. One who has come alive of late is forward Valeri Nichushkin. He snapped a 91-game goal drought with one against Toronto on Nov. 23 and has four goals and five points over the last seven games, including one in Boston.
"When I scored first, I feel (lighter), no pressure on me anymore," Nichushkin told The Denver Post during the road trip. "Of course, I get energy from first goal, too, and I get a little bit more ice time. That helps a lot."
--Field Level Media