The Colorado Avalanche just missed the postseason last year after finishing one point behind the Calgary Flames for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Although the Avalanche can't erase what happened last year, they can get a measure of revenge on Tuesday when they look to extend their perfect start at the Pepsi Center and win back-to-back games for the first time this season as they host the Flames.
Colorado (3-2-0) has alternated wins and losses in its first five games. The Avalanche were hoping to come out strong after finishing 15-2-2 in their final 19 games. Despite the impressive finish, it wasn't enough to overcome its slow start, and Colorado missed the playoffs despite finishing with one more win than Calgary (2-2-1).
It's because of the poor start and the effect it had on the remainder of the season that the Avalanche began this season determined to avoid a repeat.
"I think we found last year, we got caught maybe being behind it too late," coach Joel Quennville said. "Games 1 through 10 are going to be as meaningful as games 72 through 82."
The Avalanche are 3-0-0 at the Pepsi Center, where they've outscored opponents 15-6. Colorado is coming off a 5-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. Joe Sakic scored three goals for his 15th career hat trick, and Peter Budaj recorded 24 saves.
Sakic scored both of Colorado's third-period goals, and he opened the game with a tally at the 6:07 mark. The 38-year-old captain is one hat trick shy of Peter Stastny's franchise record.
"He had a great game tonight, and not just his production," Quennville said of Sakic. "I thought he had good energy, he played well all over the ice. It was his best game of the year."
Sakic has 614 career goals, 38 of which have come against Calgary - the most of any team he's faced. He had five goals and 20 points against the Flames last season and is two points shy of 100 against them lifetime.
The Avalanche took the final four meetings between the teams and three of the four games played at the Pepsi Center en route to winning the 2006-07 season series 5-3-0.
The Flames come to Denver after winning back-to-back games over the weekend, including a 7-4 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday, 7-4. Kristian Huselius scored two goals and Miikka Kiprusoff had 21 saves in Saturday's win as Calgary pulled away with a three-goal third period.
"Hockey is a game of momentum, and if you are not on top of your game each and every shift it can get away from you," said Flames coach Mike Keenan. "We got some opportunities in the third and we capitalized on them, then we learned something about defending a lead."
This is the final game of a four-game road trip for the Flames, who return home to play seven straight beginning Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings.
"It feels good as a team to put back-to-back wins together in two very tough places to play," said captain Jarome Iginla, who had a goal and an assist on Saturday. "If you look at the standings, we are not happy with where we are at, but it is something to build on."