Flames-Avalanche Preview

AP - Sports

The Colorado Avalanche and Calgary Flames are part of a five-team race for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference, lending a postseason feel to each game down the stretch.

If recent history is any indication, the Flames have a solid opportunity to improve their chances Tuesday night.

Calgary seeks a 10th consecutive win over Colorado when the teams face off in Denver.

Colorado (39-30-5) and Calgary (34-26-13) are in a tight race with Phoenix, San Jose, Los Angeles and Dallas for the seventh and eighth playoff seeds, although one of those four clubs will emerge with the Pacific Division title and the No. 3 seed.

Both the Flames and Avalanche have surged recently.

The Flames won five straight March 6-15 and have earned at least one point in 18 of their last 22 games, though they fell 2-1 at home to Columbus in a shootout Sunday.

Each lost point looms large in such a compact race, though Calgary - which begins a three-game road trip Tuesday - can tie Colorado in the standings with a regulation victory.

"Obviously, it's a playoff game, it's a team ahead of us in the standings and as it stands right now, it's a game we ... have to win,'' defenseman Mark Giordano said.

The Flames have done just that in recent meetings with the Avalanche, winning nine consecutive matchups - including all four this season - since a 6-5 home loss Oct. 28, 2010.

Colorado's recent hot stretch should give them plenty of confidence they can end that drought.

The Avalanche improved to 4-0-1 in their last five games after beating the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers 3-1 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. Rookie Gabriel Landeskog scored to give him a goal in three of his last four games, though he has only one assist in the four games versus Calgary.

"If we stay in the playoff picture, those teams still have to win their games, too,'' Colorado coach Joe Sacco said. "It's a tight race. It's competitive, it's fun. We're trying to enjoy it, but at the same time there is obviously some pressure that goes along with it."

The Avs will hope to slow Matt Stajan, who scored in the Flames' loss Sunday to give him a goal in four of his last six games.

Calgary captain Jarome Iginla has gone scoreless in back-to-back games after totaling eight goals and six assists during an eight-game point streak. He has six goals and four assists during Calgary's winning streak over the Avalanche.

Lee Stempniak, who returned Sunday after missing 21 games with an ankle injury, has seven goals and six assists in his last 10 games versus Colorado.

"The next three games are huge, especially this one with Colorado," Stempniak said. "It's a team we're battling and it's going to be pivotal in the standings."

Calgary left wing Alex Tanguay left Sunday's game after taking an elbow to the head in the second period, and his status for this contest is uncertain. Tanguay, a 1998 first-round draft pick of the Avalanche who played his first six seasons in Colorado, has five goals and 18 assists in 27 career games versus his former club.

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