Flames hope to cool red-hot Avs

CALGARY, Alberta — In recent years, the Colorado Avalanche may have been a game Calgary season-ticket holders took a pass on — but no longer.

Possibly the NHL’s most explosive line pays a visit to Alberta starting with a tilt in Calgary on Thursday.

Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon lead a resurgent Avalanche.

Rantanen had the league’s scoring lead entering Wednesday’s game with 12 goals and 16 assists. MacKinnon was fifth (9g, 9a) and Landeskog ninth (10g, 6a).

The Avalanche are tied for second in the Western Conference with a 7-3-2 record.

“I think we’re one of the top teams in the league in the standings,” Rantanen told nhl.com. “I know its early, but still, other teams have to look for us and be ready for us. I think we’re playing good hockey now. It’s still early and there are a lot of games left, so we just have to be consistent.”

Calgary is returning home from a very successful two-game trip to Toronto and Buffalo, where they scored late in regulation each night then won in overtime.

Matthew Tkachuk tipped in the tying goal with 54 seconds remaining in the third period and Johnny Gaudreau won it 2:40 in overtime.

The Flames are 7-5-1 and were seventh in the Western Conference as of Wednesday morning.

While the Flames are coming off back-to-back games on the road, the Avalanche are coming off a nice little rest period. They last played on Saturday, losing 3-2 in Minnesota.

“Rest is the big, main thing coming out of the seven (games) in 12 (days),” head coach Jared. Bednar told nhl.com. “They had a couple days of rest. We had a good day of practice (Tuesday). We’ll have short one (Wednesday) before we fly off. Then we go back-to-back (games), and they’ll get some rest again and then put them to work and get ready for the next stretch.”

The Avalanche will fly to Vancouver after Thursday’s game to face the Canucks on Friday.

While the Avalanche are rested, the Flames have been busy. They finish up a stretch of six games in nine days on Saturday when they host the Chicago Blackhawks.

They have recovered with the two road wins after losing 9-1 to Pittsburgh and 4-3 in OT to Washington at home.

“We’re getting where we want to be,” captain Mark Giordano told reporters in Buffalo. “Tonight was solid again, I didn’t think we gave up much. We’re getting to where we know what to expect out of each other defensively and we’re not cheating on offence and that’s resulting in wins.”

Gaudreau is again the player to watch for Calgary. He’s off to a fast start with six goals and 10 assists in 13 games. Calgary’s top goal scorer so far is Elias Lindholm, who was acquired in the offseason from Carolina.

“He’s one of those players that generates quality chances all the time,” Flames head coach Bill Peters told Postmedia News, whom he coached in Carolina. “Right now, they’re going in for him. Right now, he’s playing on a real good line with a good play-making winger and a center in Johnny and (Sean Monahan).

“That’s the thing with Johnny — he makes a lot of plays. He buys guys time and Lindy’s done a good job of getting to the right spot at the right time.”