Stars on collision course

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 7:53 AM ET

When they last met a couple of weeks back, Jarome Iginla and Peter Budaj appeared to be on completely different paths.

Iginla, the Calgary Flames captain, scored his first points of the season -- a goal and an assist -- on the Colorado Avalanche goaltender, who looked shaky and was quickly losing the trust of his coaching staff.

Iginla continued to heat up.

After sitting out a pair of victories credited to backup Andrew Raycroft, the fire was lit under Budaj.

The Avalanche goaltender has now won three straight, and took second-star honours from the NHL yesterday for his performance last week, going 3-0 with a 1.62 goals-against average and .941 save percentage.

First star? None other than Iginla.

"It's a nice honour," the humble Iginla said.

"It feels good -- it was a good week for our team. It was a fun week."

It's always fun when you're winning, which is exactly what the Flames and Avalanche have been doing as they enter tonight's Northwest Division battle at the Saddledome (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet).

Winners of five straight, the Avalanche haven't lost since that Oct. 14 meeting in Calgary.

The Flames are on a three-game streak, thanks in a big way to Iginla's five goals and seven points in those contests.

Although the three-point night Saturday against the Phoenix Coyotes may have been one of the quietest of his career -- scoring into an empty net and earning a pair of second assists -- it was probably the most complete game by the Flames this season.

The fact his honour goes hand-in-hand with some big wins isn't lost on Iginla.

"Absolutely. Without question the wins, and the road wins, the string we put together this week, everyone feels good in our room," said Iginla.

"We'd like to keep this rolling as a group."

Don't let the modesty fool you, Iginla would like to keep his personal success rolling, too.

He'll get a chance tonight to prove to Budaj exactly why he was selected the first star.

"We know Colorado's playing really well. Obviously Budaj's playing well," said Iginla, whose Flames are a point behind the Avs in the Northwest standings, and two points behind the leading Minnesota Wild.

"They had a tough start and they're feeling good. We had a tough start and we're feeling good and want to keep going, so it should be a great game."

After just one win in their first five games, the Flames found themselves floundering with four losses within the division, a pair to the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers.

Their three-game string has put them back in the hunt.

"No one was more disappointed than us after the first few games, especially because we know how good we are," said defenceman Adrian Aucoin. "We still have a long ways to go, but getting those wins and being back in the mix, as early as it is, it's still huge.

"The scariest thing is coming close to the end of the season like we were last year and looking back and wishing you had a few of those games. We don't want to be in that position."


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