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Avalanche stick with Giguere against surging Blues

Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 4:57 PM / NHL Insider

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent

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Avalanche stick with Giguere against surging Blues
Colorado gives its veteran starter his third consecutive start while St. Louis counters with a hot goalie of its own in Brian Elliott, who leads the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage.
DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche will stick with the hot hand in goal and start Jean Sebastien Giguere for the third game in a row Wednesday night against the St. Louis Blues at the Pepsi Center.

The Blues will go with a hot goalie of their own, Brian Elliott, who struggled a year ago while splitting time with Ottawa and Colorado.

Giguere, 34, has won his past two starts with a 1.44 goals-against average and .949 save percentage, and he owns a 6-4-0 record overall with a 1.86 GAA, a .929 save percentage and one shutout, after signing a two-year, $2.5 million contract as a free agent.

Elliott, 26, is enjoying a remarkable comeback season with the Blues after signing a one-year, two-way contract worth $600,000 as a free agent. The former University of Wisconsin star owns a 13-2-0 record and leads the League in GAA (1.43) and save percentage (.948), and is tied for the League lead with four shutouts.

"I don't think Elliott had the confidence that he probably needed to establish himself as the guy here. In fairness to Brian, certainly we were in a little bit of a downward spiral at that time. We had not been playing well. It really wouldn't have mattered at that time who was in the net. We needed to make their job a little easier and we didn't do that for him. I'm happy for him. I'm glad to see that he's doing very well." -- Avalanche coach Joe Sacco on Brian Elliott

The Avalanche acquired Elliott from Ottawa on Feb. 18 in exchange for goalie Craig Anderson. Elliott went 2-8-1 for Colorado with a 3.83 GAA and .891 save percentage. Overall, he finished 15-27-9 with a 3.34 GAA and .893 save percentage.

"I don't think Elliott had the confidence that he probably needed to establish himself as the guy here," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said Wednesday morning. "In fairness to Brian, certainly we were in a little bit of a downward spiral at that time. We had not been playing well. It really wouldn't have mattered at that time who was in the net. We needed to make their job a little easier and we didn't do that for him. I'm happy for him. I'm glad to see that he's doing very well."

The Avalanche didn't attempt to re-sign Elliott or Peter Budaj, who went to Montreal. Instead, Colorado acquired Semyon Varlamov from Washington and signed Giguere.

"We just felt that we needed to move in a different direction with our goaltenders," Sacco said. "We just felt we needed to start over with a clean slate with our goaltenders."

Giguere was signed as a backup and mentor for Varlamov, who has shown flashes of brilliance but has had an inconsistent season up to now. Varlamov wasn't available Saturday against Washington because of a back ailment, so Giguere stepped in and made 25 saves in a 2-1 win. He stopped 31 shots and two of three shots in a shootout Monday in the Avalanche's 3-2 win against Philadelphia.

"It's a decision right now where we're getting results," Sacco said of starting Giguere against the Blues. "We're winning hockey games and he's been solid in every game. Right now it's not too much of a decision because Jiggy is playing so well."

Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Goalie - COL
RECORD: 6-4-0
GAA: 1.85 | SVP: 0.929
The Avalanche have won three of their past four games overall and six home games in succession to pull within a game of .500 for the season (16-17-1), a plateau they haven't reached since Nov. 12 when the team was 8-8-1.

The Blues have been on fire since Ken Hitchcock replaced Davis Payne as head coach on Nov. 8, running up a 13-2-4 record to move from 14th place in the Western Conference to fifth, just four points behind first-place Detroit.

The Avalanche won the only previous meeting this season, a 3-2 shootout victory on Dec. 2. Colorado has won eight of the past nine games between the teams.

Oh, baby: Avalanche forward David Van Der Gulik will play tonight after missing Monday's game against Philadelphia to be present for the birth of his first child. Van Der Gulik's wife Jenn gave birth to 7-pound Jackson on Monday in Cleveland. Van Der Gulik began the season with the Cleveland-based Lake Erie Monsters in the American Hockey League.

Jenn wasn't due to give birth until New Year's Day, so David had to scramble to be by her side. He was attending the Denver Broncos game against the New England Patriots on Sunday when he got word from Cleveland that his wife had gone into labor. Flights to Cleveland were booked, so he flew to Akron, Ohio, and rented a car for the one-hour drive to the hospital.

"I got there just in time, a half-hour before the baby was born," a beaming Van Der Gulik said. "Surreal."
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