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Photo Credit: on Chenoy / USA Today Sports

FGD 76: An avalanche of points (7pm MT, SN West)

Barring a meltdown of catastrophic proportions, the Calgary Flames are going to be playing when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin on April 12. With seven games remaining in the regular season, the Flames first course of action is to make their playoff presence official by clinching a spot. After that? It’s time to work on some of their rough spots, because the West may actually be wide open this year.

The Flames can work on both of the things on their to-do list tonight when they host the Colorado Avalanche. Unlike the Flames, the Avalanche are not a playoff team. To be blunt, the Avalanche are about as far away from being a playoff team as you can get, mired in the midst of one of the worst seasons in recent NHL memory. If you’re the Flames, coming off a road trip with just one win in three outings, you’re looking to regain your swagger as you prepare for life after Game 82.

The action starts at 7 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!

THE FLAMES

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

Brian Elliott starts once again for the Flames. He’s 24-14-3 with a 2.48 goals against average and a .911 save percentage. If we sound like broken records praising Elliott, it’s with good reason: he’s been really solid, and occasionally excellent, over the past eight weeks or so. Since January 26, the game in Ottawa, nobody has more wins than Elliott and only Jake Allen, Sergei Bobrovsky and Jonathan Bernier have been save percentages.

The Flames got back into the win column on Saturday in St. Louis, winning a really tight-checking game in overtime. Tonight’s game is likely to be a lot different, if only because Colorado is basically an American Hockey League team at this point and they’re playing very loose (and with nothing to lose). For reference: the Flames are 18-5-1 with a +19 goal differential, while the Avalanche are 7-20-1 with a -41 differential. If the Flames can get their swagger back and play their style of game, don’t expect this one to be close.

THE AVALANCHE

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

Calvin Pickard and Jeremy Smith split the duties in Colorado’s home and home series with Edmonton, but it sounds like Pickard will start tonight. He’s 13-26-2 with a 2.91 goals against average and a .907 save percentage. He’s decent, but definitely a notch below a strong NHL goaltender. Colorado remains without Semyon Varlamov, Nikita Zadorov and Matt Nieto.

Since 2000-01, only three teams have lost 51 games in regulation in a season: the 2000-01 Islanders and the 2013-14 and 2014-15 Sabres. By way of their loss on Saturday against the Oilers, Colorado has joined that illustrious group. In short: they’re awful. They’re poised to be the first team with a points percentage below .300 since the 1999-2000 Atlanta Thrashers. That’s right, they’re Thrashers bad.

Oh, hey there Joe Colborne. Didn’t see you there, what with your four goal output this season coming from just a pair of games.

THE NUMBERS

FLAMES AVALANCHE
Wins 42 20
Points
(Pct.)
88
(.587)
43
(.291)
Power Play 19.3% 12.4%
Penalty Kill 81.0% 77.9%
Score-Adjusted Corsi 50.6% 46.4%

HISTORY LESSON

This is the 158th regular season game featuring the Flames and Avalanche franchises, including games played between Atlanta and Quebec. The Flames have a 72-57-28 record all-time. This is the third of three meetings between these teams this year.

KNOW THY ENEMY

Here are some Avalanche follows for this evening:

MAGIC NUMBERS

The Flames enter tonight’s game with a magic number of 3. Any combination of 3 Flames wins or Kings losses clinches a playoff spot for the Flames. The Kings are idle tonight.

SUM IT UP

After tonight’s game, the Flames play six games: Los Angeles, San Jose, Anaheim twice, Los Angeles again and San Jose again. That’s four games against playoff teams who they’re jockeying for position with, and a pair against what’s likely to be a very cranky Kings team that’s about to be eliminated from post-season contention. In other words: this is the last game they have for a tune-up before the intensity gets ratcheted up… and stays up until their playoffs end.