SUN Hockey Pool

Division lead up for grabs

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

Seven points separated the Calgary Flames and the Colorado Avalanche when the first month of the NHL season had passed.

Tonight, the Flames can pass the Avs for first place in the Northwest Division with a win in regulation.

"It's huge," said Flames winger Eric Nystrom. "We want to be in first place.

"It's a chance to go head-to-head with the team you're trying to take it from. That's a good showdown, so we're looking forward to that."

Playing themselves into contention thanks to a November to remember so far, the Flames are riding a 5-0-1 record into a rematch with a team that skated into the Saddledome and handed them a 3-2 loss Oct. 28.

The Avs are headed in the other direction, winning just two of their six November games coming in.

With a couple of games still in hand over the Avs, the Flames have done their part to make the leap forward. But they were also counting on the young team from Denver to go through some growing pains.

"You thought at some point, hopefully, they stumble a little bit," admitted Craig Conroy.

It's happening now.

But they know from their last experience, the Avalanche are not a team to take lightly.

"We weren't happy with the game we had against them the first time," said Conroy, whose Flames jumped out to a 2-0 lead in just 1:10 of the first period before losing 3-2 in the third period on an individual effort from Wojtek Wolski.

"They're ahead of us, and we've got to take some strides here.

"(Tonight's) gonna be a lot of fun."

Avs goaltender Craig Anderson was shelled for four goals on 22 shots in an 8-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks Saturday night, but he'll be looking to bounce back in a big way against the Flames -- who originally drafted the Park Ridge, Ill., product in 1999 but couldn't sign him.

"We just need to focus on making sure we're prepared like we need to be and understanding the fact we're playing a good team, and we've got to play well to have success," said Flames head coach Brent Sutter.

"I'm not underestimating them at all, because they wouldn't be where they're at if they weren't a good team.

"You have to be ready. (Tonight's) a big divisional game. It's a chance for us to get where we want to be. You know they're gonna be ready to play, so we have to be prepared."

STEVE.MACFARLANE@SUNMEDIA.CA


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