Avalanche-Flames Preview


The Calgary Flames finally got into the win column last time out thanks in large part to the efforts of Lee Stempniak.

Stempniak and the Flames will try to earn another victory Thursday night by taking advantage of the struggling Colorado Avalanche, who are winless away from home.

After falling 4-1 to San Jose in its season opener Jan. 20, Calgary got progressively closer to a win until breaking through. The Flames (1-2-1) lost by a goal to Anaheim the next day and were edged in a shootout in Vancouver last Wednesday before getting past rival Edmonton 4-3 on Saturday to avoid their worst start since 1999-2000.

Stempniak had a goal and two assists against the Oilers - all in the first two periods - and has five points in the first four games (three goals, two assists).

"I've been trying to be more consistent," said the winger, who had 14 goals in 61 games during his first season in Calgary. "I've sort of been a streaky scorer in the past."

Curtis Glencross also scored his third goal of the season and is tied with Stempniak for the team points lead with five. Perennial scoring leader and captain Jarome Iginla, however, has yet to find the net but has an assist in each of the last three games.

Iginla will try to avoid his longest drought to start a season since a career-worst 11-game run in 1999-2000 when the Flames welcome in the Avalanche, who have lost three in a row and are 0-4-0 on the road.

Colorado (2-4-0) has been outscored 11-1 in the first three of a four-game trip. The Avalanche, who had nine goals in their first three games, were shut out for the second time during their skid Wednesday, falling 3-0 to Vancouver.

"Every team goes through dry spells and slumps,'' Matt Duchene said. "When they come, they'll come. It takes a little while sometimes. We've got to keep pressing. We're getting chances.''

The Avalanche haven't lost their first five road games since they were the Quebec Nordiques and dropped a franchise-worst nine straight away from home to begin 1991-92. That team went 2-29 with nine ties and didn't earn its first road win until its 34th game March 5.

Colorado has won each of its past two matchups with the Flames and snapped a four-game skid in Calgary with a 4-1 victory March 30. Iginla ruined Semyon Varlamov's bid for a shutout with a power-play goal in the final minute.

Varlamov has started every game this season but it's unclear if he or Jean-Sebastien Giguere will be in the net for the second half of back-to-back contests.

Varlamov, though, might get the call again as he has allowed one goal in each of Colorado's past two wins over Calgary while Giguere is 0-3-1 with a 2.98 goals-against average in his last four matchups, the most recent on Dec. 8, 2011.

Miikka Kiprusoff is once again the Flames' workhorse in net, starting every game so far. The Finnish netminder, who has made 68 or more starts in each of the past seven seasons, is 10-1-1 with a 1.85 GAA in his last 12 games against Colorado.

It's unknown if Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog will play in this game. He's missed the past two contests after taking a hit Saturday from San Jose defenseman Brad Stuart.

Glencross scored in three of the Flames' four wins over the Avalanche in 2011-12 and Stempniak had a goal and an assist in two of those games.