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Avalanche Closes Road Trip At Panthers

Colorado has gone 2-1-0 against some of the Eastern Conference's best

by Danielle Bernstein @danibernstein /

The Colorado Avalanche stays in the Sunshine State for one more game, taking on the Florida Panthers on Saturday for what will be the first of two meetings between the Avs and the Panthers during the 2016-17 season.

The Avalanche is 17-6-2-3 all time (since the 1995-96 season) against the Panthers and 10-2-0-2 on the road. Colorado didn't lose a game in South Florida from Feb. 16, 1996, through Jan. 13, 2008, stringing together eight consecutive wins in that time frame.

The Avalanche is coming off a 4-0 shutout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night, while the Panthers enter the Saturday's matchup following a 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals, their first regulation loss of the season. Florida is 2-1-1 so far this year with wins over the New Jersey Devils and the Detroit Red Wings.

Video: Avs close the road trip vs. Panthers

Saturday's game will mark the fourth in six nights for the Avs and will conclude a tough early-season road trip that's pitted Colorado against some of the Eastern Conference's top teams. The Avalanche is 2-1-0 through the first three games of the trip, with wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins and Lightning.

"It's a great start based on the opponents we've played," said Avalanche defenseman Francois Beauchemin after the victory in Tampa. "We've played four teams that went deep in the playoffs last year. These are tough games to play, and I thought we had a great response tonight after the effort we gave in Washington. It's not just a win; it's the way we played tonight. We kept things simple. We made the easy play instead of forcing things up the middle."

Goaltender Semyon Varlamov will get the nod in net once again, making his third straight start and coming off a 27-save shutout performance on Thursday.

"He's been really sharp. To be honest through exhibition and everything, he's been really good. I think in the Dallas game, we hung him out to dry a little bit with some of the chances that we gave up," said Avalanche coach Jared Bednar of his netminder. "He's been really good for us, has given us a chance to win every night."

The Avalanche is 4-for-14 (28.6%) on the power play so far this season, which ranks sixth in the National Hockey League.

Offense has been a strength for Colorado, which is averaging 3.50 goals per game, tied for seventh in the league. That scoring punch will be put to the test by a Florida team that currently ranks sixth in goals against per game, allowing just 2.25.

"I think our guys are excited. They're having fun coming to the rink right now and winning helps that. When you play the way we played--we we're doing things right all night last night, regardless of the time and score of the game--that's fun hockey," said Bednar after Friday's practice at the BB&T Center. "Playing in Washington the other night, we were chasing the game and we weren't really there or committed the way we need to be committed. That's tough hockey, and it's not real fun, and you see the difference last night. I think our guys are starting to see that. When we play hard and we're prepared, then it's fun hockey and it will come and continue the momentum."

The Avalanche and the Panthers square off at 5 p.m. MT on Saturday. The game can be watched live on Altitude and can be heard on Altitude Radio 950 AM.

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