Nov 30, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Calgary Flames left wing Mike Cammalleri (13) celebrates with center Mikael Backlund (11) after scoring the game winning goal in the third period of the game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. Flames won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Avalanche - Flames

Who: Calgary Flames (9-18-2)

When: Tonight, 9:30PM EST/7:30PM MDT

Your Starting Goalies: COL – Semyon Varlamov (13-7-0), CAL – Karri Ramo (4-4-1)

The Dangermen: The Flames are a little thin up front right now thanks to injuries to forwards Curtis Glencross, TJ Galiardi and rookie Sean Monahan. Losing Monahan hurts especially given that he’s second on the team in goals (9) and points (15) to date.

Of the healthy, the most worrisome guy is yet again Jiri Hudler. The last time the Avalanche played the Flames, Hudler was coming in on a hot streak and played as such. He leads the team with 18 assists and 25 points through 27 games so far and remains someone to watch.

Hudler has, however, been challenged for the title of “most dangerous Flame” since the return of Mike Cammalleri. With 10 goals in 20 games, Cammalleri has been playing well, finding open spaces and burying his opportunities. He too was trouble for the Avalanche last time out.

The rest of the group plays hard and will work for what they get, but those two are the guys to focus on and lock down.

The Defenders: Injuries have beset the Flames on the defensive end as well. Top defenseman Mark Giordano has been out with a broken foot after blocking a shot (though he’s back tonight) and now Dennis Wideman will miss some time with a fractured hand.

The remaining group is led by Kris Russell and his 13 points. He’s a good puck-moving defenseman on a group chalk-full of them. They’ll get their grit from the returning Giordano and Shane O’Brien.

This group is partially responsible for giving up the third-most goals in the league and is there to be punished if the Avalanche come out with a much better game than they had last night in Edmonton.

Puck Stoppers Inc.:  The Avalanche will be facing a hot goalie, however. Karri Ramo will get the nod again tonight after stopping 50 of 52 shots in back-to- back wins over the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes.

He’s done a good job of positioning himself so that he can get enough of a piece of dangerous chances that he pushes them wide. He’s just 4-4-1 with a 3.00 GAA and .898 save percentage on the year, so one has to wonder how long he can keep up this quality of play.

How the Avs match up: Theoretically, the Avalanche will take last night’s performance, internalize it and come out pissed off tonight in Calgary.  Given the way they’ve played over the first third of the season, you would think that they won’t repeat last night’s performance, but who the hell knows, really?

Dec 5, 2013; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon (29) looks for a rebound in front of Edmonton Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk (40) during the second period at Rexall Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

They will likely be without Jan Hejda tonight as well. Hejda left the game in the first period last night with an apparent knee issue and is set to return to Denver today for further evaluation. The Avalanche can’t be without their top defensive-defenseman for long without serious impact.

Key Matchup: Goaltending vs Actually Stopping the Puck

Cower in fear if: Ramo continues his hot streak.

The Avalanche continue to forget how to special teams.

Missing Hejda leaves a noticeable impact on the defense and the team in general.

Laugh maniacally if: the effort is maximum and ruthless right out of the gate.

Gabe Landeskog continues his current points streak, currently sitting at three games.

The team responds to last night’s debacle with maximum energy and effort for 60 minutes.

Silly predictions: Landy kicks off the scoring early, extending his scoring streak; Matt Duchene does at least one ridiculous thing; Varly (if he starts) rebounds to shut the door on the Flames; Cammalleri equips his cloaking device at least once, randomly showing up by himself in front of the net on a scoring chance.

Final:  4-2 Avalanche

Ryan is the editor of Mile High Sticking as well as co-owner of The Farm Club. Follow him on Twitter to talk Avs, Sabres, hockey in general, or to let him know what a yutz he is.

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Tags: 2013-14 Season Calgary Flames Colorado Avalanche Gabriel Landeskog Jiri Hudler Michael Cammalleri NHL Semyon Varlamov

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