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The question for Steve Mason isn't when he will lose. It's when will a puck finally get past him.
The rookie will try to extend his franchise-record shutout streak to four games as the Columbus Blue Jackets open 2009 by continuing their season-high six-game road trip against the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night.
Mason has just 20 games of NHL experience under his belt since being recalled from the minors on Nov. 4, But in less than two months, he's already started to rewrite the record book for the Blue Jackets (17-16-4).
After giving up a goal late in a 3-0 loss to the Kings on Dec. 23, the 20-year-old Mason blanked Philadelphia and Los Angeles before beating Anaheim 2-0 on Wednesday to push his shutout streak to 182 minutes, 8 seconds.
"It was a pretty routine game for myself. The guys played great in front of myself and made it real easy," said Mason, now 12-7-1 with a league-best 1.69 goals-against average. "You try not to pay attention to it and think about a shutout because you don't want to jinx it. It was nice to get, but obviously the most important thing is the win. And right now I'm just trying to get as many wins as I can."
Mason, who's never faced Colorado, is the first rookie goaltender to notch three straight shutouts since 1989-90. He's one of only seven rookie NHL goaltenders since 1989-90 to record consecutive shutouts.
With five shutouts, Mason is more than halfway to the club record for shutouts in a season, set in 2007-08 when Pascal Leclaire posted nine. Mason still has a long way to go to equal the all-time rookie record for shutouts in a season as Tony Esposito tallied 15 for Chicago in 1969-70.
To extend its home winning streak to a season high-tying four games, Colorado (19-17-1) must solve Mason and try to bounce back from a lackluster loss while trying to re-establish its dominance at the Pepsi Center over the Blue Jackets.
Colorado last won four in a row in Denver from Nov. 26-Dec. 9, and is 11-6-0 at home.
But one of those defeats was a rare one to Columbus. On Oct. 30, Fredrik Norrena made 30 saves, and the Blue Jackets scored three second-period goals in the 4-2 win.
The Blue Jackets had been 1-12-1 all-time in Colorado coming into that contest.
On Wednesday, Colorado jumped out to an early lead, but Peter Budaj couldn't make it stand up in a 3-1 loss at Phoenix. He allowed two goals to Peter Mueller in a 2:05 span of the second period, and finished with 26 saves.
Budaj, though, has won five of his last six home starts to improve to 8-5-0 there. He replaced Andrew Raycroft in the October loss to Columbus, turning aside all three shots faced.
Raycroft had only 10 saves through two periods of that game in his only loss this season. The former Boston and Toronto netminder has won his last four starts and is 6-1-0 with a 2.95 GAA in 2008-09.
T.J. Hensick scored for Colorado in the loss to the Coyotes. With Joe Sakic (herniated disc and broken fingers) and Paul Stastny (broken forearm) expected to miss extended time, coach Tony Granato said he expects more from the second-year center, who has just two goals in 24 games.
"He's strong on his skates and gifted offensively," Granato said. "We're going to need him to score goals for us so it was good to see."