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Hejduk Hits 20-Goal Plateau

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
The stakes were pretty simple for the Avalanche heading into tonight’s game against Calgary. A regulation victory would give the team a healthy 11-point advantage over the ninth-place Flames in the Western Conference standings with 12 games remaining for each club. A regulation loss would mean Calgary closes that gap to seven points.

Colorado and Calgary met for the fifth time this season Wednesday night at Pepsi Center, with each of the first four meetings ending in 3-2 Avalanche victories (three in regulation).

Unfortunately for the home team, they were on the wrong end of a 3-2 decision this time around. The Flames jumped out to what proved to be an insurmountable 3-0 lead by the 6:55 mark of the second period on a pair of goals from Rene Bourque and a tally from Eric Nystrom.

Chris Durno put the Avalanche on the scoreboard later in the middle frame following a goalmouth scrum and Milan Hejduk scored with 33 seconds left in the third period, but the Avs couldn’t tie the game late despite applying some heavy pressure on the Flames and goaltender Vesa Toskala.

Hejduk Hits 20
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Hejduk’s late goal was his 20th of the year, marking the 10th consecutive season the veteran has reached that plateau. That ties him with Michel Goulet (1979-80 to 1988-89) and Peter Stastny (1980-81 to 1989-90) for the second longest streak of 20-plus goal seasons in Avalanche/Nordiques history.

The Avalanche assistant captain scored the goal after knocking home a feed from Paul Stastny while Colorado had six attackers on the ice late in the contest.

“I’ve been playing with really good players, and I have been fortunate enough to stay healthy enough all these years,” said Hejduk. “I guess it is a pretty good accomplishment.”

Hejduk’s streak began during his second year in the NHL (1999-2000), when he scored 36 goals while playing in all 82 contests. In the last decade, Hejduk has amassed at least 30 goals in five different seasons, including an NHL-best 50 tallies during the 2002-03 campaign.

He now trails just Joe Sakic in 20-goal seasons for the franchise, as the long-time captain ran off 11 consecutive campaigns with 20 or more goals from 1995-96 to 2006-07.

Wilson Injured
The Avs were reduced to playing with five defensemen for the final two periods after Ryan Wilson was knocked out of the lineup late in the opening frame. Wilson suffered a head injury during a fight with Calgary’s Jamal Mayers and did not return.

Brett Clark was the Avalanche’s healthy scratch on defense tonight, while fellow blueliner Ruslan Salei remains sidelined with a torso injury.

A Look Ahead
The remainder of the Avalanche’s schedule certainly won’t be a cakewalk, as eight of the club’s 12 games will be against teams who would be in the playoffs were they to start today.

That slate includes three contests against the Los Angeles Kings, who currently sit one point behind the Avs but have two games in hand. Also on Colorado’s schedule are divisional matchups with Vancouver and Calgary (presently one point out of a playoff spot), as well as a contest with the Phoenix Coyotes, who are currently five points ahead of the Avalanche in the Western Conference standings.
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