March 14, 2015

The Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche made strides in December, though they are currently on the outside looking in at the playoffs.

They'll both be trying to shake off some recent defeats when they meet Saturday night in Denver.

Both teams tied for fourth last month with nine victories. Colorado (18-17-3) went 9-3-2 to match the best winning percentage in December in franchise history.

"If you told us at the start of the month that that is what we'll do, we'd take it, all players, all coaches," defenseman Erik Johnson said. "That is a really good month and something to build off going into the new year here. We've been playing a lot better as of late, and I think we can continue to keep playing better."

Calgary (17-18-2) had the league's seventh-best December winning percentage by going 9-4-0, though the club ended the month with consecutive regulation defeats.

That has the Flames emphasizing this contest, the only one on the road for them in a nine-game stretch.

"There are certain times in the year when you have to step up and this is one of them," center Joe Colborne said.

Calgary has 36 points and is in better shape of getting in the postseason in a crowded Pacific Division race. Colorado has 39 but is in a tougher position with five Central Division foes above it.

The Avalanche are tied for the league's third-worst home record and play six of their next seven there.

"We're going to have to dominate at home," coach Patrick Roy said. "We're going to have to maybe change a bit of our preparation that making sure that when we come to the rink (we have) a different mind-set. We need to be better at home, there's no doubt about that."

Those woes continued with Thursday's 4-3 overtime defeat to Chicago to open a five-game homestand. Johnson had a goal and an assist to give him six points in his last five games and Matt Duchene added two assists.

The Avalanche are 8 for 17 on the power play in their last five games. They have scored first in 11 straight - three shy of the franchise record.

The Flames were third in the league in December with an average of 3.1 goals behind Johnny Gaudreau, who led all players last month with 12. Gaudreau, however, seeks to avoid going pointless in three straight games for the first time since a four-game stretch Nov. 10-15.

Colorado would like to have defenseman Tyson Barrie back after he sat out Thursday due to the flu. Barrie leads the club's defensemen with 23 points.

Star Flames defenseman Mark Giordano has eight points in his last six games. He scored his 10th goal in Thursday's 4-1 home defeat to Los Angeles.

Calgary has totaled 38 shots in its last two games.

"Those are the games you've got to expect down the stretch," Giordano said. "They're going to clog everything up. They're going to play really well defensively."

Nathan MacKinnon has seven points in five career games against the Flames, with a goal and two assists in a 6-3 win Nov. 3, in the first 2015-16 matchup between these clubs.

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