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Facing Blackhawks, Avs Get Chance to Close Gap

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche's play this season has led to this: three points out of first place in the Central Division with 21 games remaining.

Colorado can continue to close that gap this week as they face the division-leading Blues and Blackhawks over the next five days. The Avs play in Chicago tonight (6 p.m. MT) and at home against St. Louis on Saturday (1 p.m.) after playing in Detroit on Thursday.

"We are certainly in a good position, and we put ourselves in a good position through hard work," Landeskog said after morning skate at United Center. "Certainly we want this one [tonight] even more now that we know we are so close."

Colorado has four games remaining against Chicago and St. Louis this season (two games each), but it will play three of those contests over the next eight days. The Avs close their season series with the Blackhawks next Wednesday, Jan. 12, at Pepsi Center.

The Avs have one game in hand over the Blackhawks and lead the season series 2-1-0. A win tonight would give Colorado one of the tiebreakers and help close that three-point margin in the standings.

"We've been battling all year to get to where we are, and tonight is a great chance to get even closer," PA Parenteau said. "We know [the Blackhawks] have a great team, but we're ready to go. We're really motivated, and we want to get this one."

Tyson Barrie (#4) and Semyon Varlamov (#1) helped lead the Avs to a win over the Blackhakws last time they were in Chicago (Phot: Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images).

The Avalanche won the last meeting against the Blackhawks, 3-2, on Jan. 14 after Tyson Barrie scored the overtime-winning goal and goaltender Semyon Varlamov made 46 saves. That game was a good bounce-back performance after the club lost 7-2 in Chicago 18 days earlier when the it had to travel on the same day after the Christmas break.

Except for that Dec. 27 game, the Avs have matched the offensive firepower of the Blackhawks while keeping two of their top scorers, Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane, without goals in the three meetings this season. Colorado won the series-opening game 5-1 on Nov. 19.

"We know how good they are offensively. We want to match them," Parenteau said. "We don't want to play run-and-gun, but we want to play a good game and match their speed and I think we have been doing that for the most part when we've played them. … It's always fun playing them. It's a great challenge for our hockey team, for our young guys, too. It should be no different tonight."

Landeskog said the team is well aware of the standings and that they know how big the next week is if it wants to chase down the Blackhawks and Blues.

"We use it as motivation. We know what is at stake here, and what is up for grabs here," Landeskog said of the team looking at the standings. "For us, we are certainly looking ahead (in the standings) and are not looking behind us. We know there are 20-something games left, and we certainly want to go and chase those two teams. We want to win this division."

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