Flames catching break with weary Avalanche?

The banged-up Calgary Flames appear to have a winnable game against the lowly Avalanche on Thursday at the Saddledome, but Colorado should be motivated to play after getting trounced in the last meeting between the clubs.

What's that they say about desperate times?

Forward Ales Kotalik will draw into the lineup for the banged-up Calgary Flames as they hope to put the skids on a three-game losing streak at home against Colorado on Thursday.

The Calgary Flames fell back to the wrong side of the playoff dividing line since they last played, and injuries to forwards Brendan Morrison (knee), David Moss (lower body) and Freddy Modin (back) have forced the club to recall Kotalik.

The Flames had been trying to get rid of Kotalik since last summer, twice putting him on waivers before sending him to the AHL's Abbotsford Heat on Jan. 28 to get his $3-million US stipend off the salary-cap books.

Calgary (36-27-9) has lost three in a row, getting outscored 11-6. They have the same number of points as Anaheim in eighth place, but the Ducks hold all relevant tiebreakers.

Sutter gets critical

Calgary head coach Brent Sutter publicly blasted his team after Tuesday's 4-3 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes for not playing with urgency, saying "our play has not been close to where we need it to be."

Calgary never led, and trailed 4-1 early in the third before making a late run.

"As a head coach it's my job to make sure it's addressed and we do everything we can to get it back on track," Sutter said. "That's why I was the way I was after the game last night. That's why I've been feeling the way I've been feeling for the last four, five or six days.

"I don't like the amount of turnovers we've been giving up, I don't like the amount of scoring chances we've been giving up. Things that we weren't doing for two and a half months we've let get into our game a little bit and we need to straighten it out.

"I want to nail it in the butt because we've got 10 games left and every game is such a huge game for us. That urgency has to be at a high level."

Calgary's goal starting Dec. 23 was to win two out of every three games. The Flames were well ahead of that pace at 22-7-6 before their recent skid.

But the surge belied the fact that the Flames had played more games than most other teams in the West. Those clubs are catching up in that department, and Calgary is helping them out with their recent play.

Kotalik admitted he didn't think he'd be back with the Flames again once he was assigned to the minors. He had four goals and 15 assists in 18 games in Abbotsford.

"Right now, there's not any time for hard feelings," Kotalik said. "It's an opportunity to step in and help. Especially this time of year, it's the most exciting part."

The veteran has just six goals in 46 games for Calgary since coming over from the New York Rangers last season.  

Avalanche getting rocked

Colorado is in the midst of one of the worst spans in recent memory in the NHL, going 1-17-2 in its last 20 after losing 4-2 to Vancouver on Wednesday.

The Avalanche did see top players Paul Stastny and John-Michael Liles return to the lineup against the Canucks, meaning they'll be no pushover for the Flames.

Former Senators goalie Brian Elliott fell to 0-5-1 in a Colorado uniform with the loss to the Canucks.

Colorado could turn to Peter Budaj, but he commonly allows three goals or more per game — 26 times in 32 appearances this season, including each of the last seven.

After an early-season 6-5 loss to Colorado, the Flames have won three straight in the series, including a 9-1 pasting on Feb. 14. The other two Calgary wins were close games.

The division rivals wrap up their six games on April 3 in Denver.

Of more immediate concern for the Flames will be a four-game road trip that kicks off Sunday in Anaheim.

With files from The Canadian Press