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After Short Rest, Avs Back at Practice

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
Having played a game every other day since opening a six-game road trip in Washington on Feb. 20, the Avalanche has a few days to regroup and prepare before the club’s next contest.

The Avs took the day off on Thursday, but were back on the ice for practice Friday at Family Sports Center. The squad will also practice tomorrow before boarding a plane for its Sunday afternoon match-up with the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.

“I think if we play with the emotion and energy we played with against Detroit we’ll turn it around,” said Avalanche head coach Tony Granato. “We’re going to work hard and prepare for the Blackhawks like we would any other game.”

Chicago will play in Boston on Saturday afternoon, meaning the Avs will catch the Blackhawks on the second half of a back-to-back set. Through Thursday’s games, the Hawks trail only Detroit in the Central Division standings and rank fourth in the Western Conference with 81 points (36-17-9).

“They’re a team that’s having a great year. They have a lot of young speed,” Granato added. “We’ll have to be sharp, we’ll have to be physical, we’ll have to be ready to go.”

Key to the Game
Special teams are crucial in almost any game, but could play an especially large role in Sunday’s contest. Chicago’s power-play ranks eighth in the NHL, hitting at a 21.0% clip (57-of-271) on the season.

The Avalanche’s penalty kills currently stands at 79.5% (51-of-249), but has been especially good in recent outings. Colorado killed 24-of-26 penalties on its recent road trip (92.3%) before holding the Red Wings off the scoreboard in two power-play chances on Wednesday. That performance moved the team’s penalty-kill percentage to 92.9% over the past seven games.

Sakic's Rehab on Track
Granato also touched briefly on the status of Avalanche captain Joe Sakic, who underwent surgery for a herniated disc in his back on Jan. 7.

“His rehab is going well. He looks good, he’s smiling and still looking forward to the opportunity of hopefully coming back to play this year.”

No exact date has been set for Sakic’s return to the ice.

Budaj Tabbed Versus Hawks
The Avalanche will start Peter Budaj against Chicago. The netminder holds a 3-2-1 all-time record against the Blackhawks, but has dropped two decisions to Chicago this season.
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