In the race to the post-season, the Colorado Avalanche have been like a thorn in the foot of the Calgary Flames, keeping them from reaching the finish line.
Pair of tweezers in hand, the Flames are hoping to remove that thorn and cross into the realm of the playoff-bound all in the same night.
They host the Avs at the 'Dome tonight (7 p.m., PPV) needing two points in any fashion to clinch a berth and finally eliminate their pesky Northwest rival.
"This is the game we've been waiting for all year," said Tony Amonte yesterday after a spirited practice full of laughs.
"It's nice to hold your own destiny in your hand."
Since the foes last met in mid-March, the Avalanche have gone 6-0-1 to keep the pressure on the eighth seed.
The Flames have strung together six straight wins to go 6-2 in response.
Although this will be their first head-to-head battle in three weeks, it seems their names have been linked the entire time.
"We haven't been playing against them a lot but it feels like we've been playing against them, fighting to get in playoff position," said Amonte.
"They've stayed strong, they've hung tough."
Now it's time to put the issue to rest. And the magnitude of what they can do with a win tonight isn't lost in the Flames dressing room.
"Biggest game of the year," Amonte said. "You want to put them away, we want to do it ourselves, it's in our hands."
Centre Craig Conroy agrees it's a critical showdown but sounded a little surprised it has come down to Game 79 of their schedule.
"Well, you're hoping it wasn't going to come down to it. We thought maybe if they could lose a couple, we could win and it wouldn't come to this point but they've been persistent," said Conroy.
"They still feel like they've got a chance and, for us, we've got to put that nail in the coffin. We haven't been able to do that yet."
With the opportunity to both secure themselves a longer season and eliminate another team, the idea of it being like a Game 7 isn't far off the mark.
"That could be a good attitude to take," said forward Matthew Lombardi.
"It comes down to (tonight). We can clinch it. It's been exciting but it's our chance to put an end to that."
Should the Flames win, it will snap the Avs' streak of 10 straight seasons with a post-season appearance since the franchise moved from Quebec to Denver.
Former Avalanche winger Alex Tanguay stopped short of saying he'd celebrate that statistic but reaffirmed his allegiance to the Red and White.
"I'm a Flame," he said. "(Tonight) we have a chance to get into the playoffs. That's the way I'm looking at it."
Tanguay, who won a Stanley Cup with the Avs in 2001, knows his former team will empty the tank tonight.
"We know we're going to have their best because it's a desperate situation," he said.
"It's do or die."
Added Conroy: "We feel good about ourselves right now and you want to keep that good vibe and that good feeling going. We want to go in on a high and that's what we're building towards."