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Colorado
Avalanche
32-45-5
Chicago
Blackhawks
46-24-12

29 SOG
25 SOG
1st2nd3rdT
COL
CHI
game preview

Avalanche-Blackhawks Preview

Sunday, 03.08.2009 / 2:00 PM

Associated Press

Antti Niemi shook off some nerves to win his first NHL start for the Chicago Blackhawks earlier this month.

On Sunday, the host Blackhawks could call upon their rookie goaltender to help them bounce back from their latest loss and extend the Colorado Avalanche's season-high losing streak to seven games.

With Nikolai Khabibulin still on injured reserve with a groin injury and Cristobal Huet coming off a mediocre effort in a 5-3 loss at Boston on Saturday, coach Joel Quenneville could give the 25-year-old Niemi his second start.

Niemi, who joined Chicago (36-18-9) after spending three seasons in his native Finland, made 22 saves in the Blackhawks' 4-2 home win over Los Angeles last Sunday.

"I was nervous, but not too bad," Niemi said. "I was able to feel pretty good and nervous at the same time."

The victory came two nights after he replaced Huet and took the loss in his NHL debut. Niemi stopped five of six shots in a 5-4 overtime loss to Pittsburgh.

Facing Colorado (28-36-1) - last in the Western Conference - could help take some pressure off Niemi.

The Avalanche look to avoid losing seven straight for the first time since dropping eight in a row from Jan. 2-23, 1992, when the franchise was based in Quebec.

The Blackhawks took the first two games between the teams this season while the Avalanche won 2-1 at home on Jan. 8. Colorado has lost its last three visits to Chicago.

Chicago, fourth in the West, has won two in a row at the United Center, where it is 17-5-6 this season.

"They're a team that's having a great year," Avalanche coach Tony Granato told the team's official Web site. "We'll have to be ready to go."

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews each had a goal and an assist Saturday for Chicago, which trimmed a three-goal deficit to one in the third period before the Bruins added an empty-netter.

Huet, who fell to 18-13-3, made 34 saves but allowed two goals in 65 seconds during the second period.

Toews, who has two assists against Colorado this season, has five goals and two assists in his last four games. Kane, meanwhile, has seven points in his last seven contests and three assists against the Avalanche in 2008-09.

Colorado returns to the road after falling 3-2 to Detroit on Wednesday. Milan Hejduk scored his team-leading 24th goal and added an assist for the Avalanche, who have been outscored 26-10 during their current skid.

The Avalanche franchise hasn't had a losing record this late in the season since relocating in 1995-96.

"It's an awful year this year, we all know that," Colorado's Ian Laperriere said. "It's no secret."

Hejduk has a goal and an assist against Chicago this season.

Colorado's Peter Budaj, who is 16-25-1 with a 3.03 GAA, will try to snap a five-game losing streak. Though he is 3-2-1 with a 2.99 GAA versus Chicago, both regulation losses have come this season.

2008-2009 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Mar 08 '09COL 5 at CHI 1C. Stewart
Jan 08 '09CHI 1 at COL 2W. Wolski
Dec 12 '08CHI 4 at COL 3D. Byfuglien
Nov 03 '08COL 2 at CHI 6C. Barker
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
R. Smyth66243256-65493
M. Hejduk66252853-71292
W. Wolski65142337-82623
P. Stastny40102434-42062
M. Svatos58141731-33261
J. Liles5982230-122540
T. Arnason6251722-131421
J. Leopold6461420-101811
R. Salei6441620-46410
T. Hensick4641418+01210
C. McLeod6512517-313203
C. Stewart4110717-154701
I. Laperriere5871017+112200
D. Jones408513-8811
D. Tucker526612-146111
B. Clark6621012-53201
J. Sakic1521012-6600
C. McCormick4211011+17900
B. Guite34459+41200
A. Foote40167-113001
S. Hannan65066-122400
D. Tjarnqvist33224+2800
B. Willsie31134-5800
P. Dupuis8000-1400
K. Cumiskey6000-2000
C. Durno2000+0000
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
P. Budaj4517-25-112812312.99.896
A. Raycroft2512-11-0736933.12.895
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
P. Kane62213758+138113
J. Toews64282957+1143116
M. Havlat64213657+172454
K. Versteeg61172845+155142
B. Campbell6473744+31841
D. Bolland64152439+193814
P. Sharp54231538+23984
A. Ladd64112738+222401
D. Keith6082533+283821
C. Barker5142832-64941
D. Byfuglien59111223-17133
T. Brouwer5591423+114630
B. Seabrook6451116+184720
C. Fraser6451015+45100
B. Eager6010414+413000
J. Wisniewski3121113+61410
M. Walker5211213+136400
A. Burish48538+57102
A. Johnson29358+182401
C. Adams36246-32210
B. Sopel23112-4801
J. Skille8101-3500
J. Hendry8000-1400
N. Hjalmarsson3000+0000
P. Pelletier3000-4000
T. Brent1000+0200
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
C. Huet3618-13-3839512.44.913
N. Khabibulin2917-5-5668702.37.924
A. Niemi31-1-18593.40.864