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Avalanche 2, Blackhawks 1 @NHLdotcom

CHICAGO (AP) - Peter Budaj is taking advantage of his temporary role as a starting goalie.

Budaj made 26 saves, and Pierre Turgeon and Antti Laaksonen scored to lead the Colorado Avalanche to a 2-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.

Budaj, the starter after Colorado traded David Aebischer to Montreal for Jose Theodore on Wednesday, was especially sharp late in the second period and early in the third. He stopped several Blackhawks, including Kyle Calder and Patrick Sharp, on close-in chances.

"I think it'a an opportunity," Budaj said. "Nothing's changed for me as far as my preparation for the game. Every time I get a chance to play it's going to be the same mindset, to help give my team a chance to win a hockey game.

With Theodore out until late March with a broken bone in his heel, Budaj - who has appeared in 21 games - figures to be busy the next few weeks.

"I'm very happy right now for myself right now," Budaj said. "I have a chance to play as much as I'm going to deserve and show my ability to win hockey games."

Colorado coach Joel Quenneville was more impressed with Budaj's performance than the rest of his team's play.

"I didn't think we played well at all," Quenneville said. "We struggled to get something going. Peter played great. He was our best player tonight for sure. We've got a lot of confidence in him and we were comfortable making the decision yesterday to put him in the lineup."

Curtis Brown scored for Chicago, which has lost six of eight.

Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 22 shots in his return to the Blackhawks after missing 12 games with a sprained left knee. Khabibulin, injured Jan. 20 in Minnesota, had missed 10 games earlier this season with a pulled groin.

"It felt great to get back out there," Khabibulin said. "I didn't feel 100 percent at the beginning, but I felt better as the game went on. I've only played a couple of times in the last 2 1/2 months, so everthing seemed fast at first."

The Avalanche announced earlier on Thursday that rookie forward Marek Svatos, the team's leading goal scorer with 32, would miss the remainder of the season with a fractured right shoulder.

"It's a bad break," Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix said. "The kid had a great year. Everybody is going to have to pull together a little bit more. It's sad to see and a tough thing, but we can't use it as an excuse."

Svatos is second among NHL rookies in goal and third in points with 50.

"That's a tough loss," Quenneville said. "He's had such a tremendous year with that consistency and jumping over the boards every shift with his intensity and emotion."

Turgeon opened the scoring just 1:35 in from the right side of the crease, converting a rebound of Brad Richardson's shot from left wing.

Brown tied it with 4:28 left in the first, scoring just his second goal and first since the opening night of the season.

During a Colorado shift change, Brown moved off left wing and fired a rising shot from the circle that sailed over Budaj's glove into the top right corner of the net.

Laaksonen gave Colorado a 2-1 lead - with the eventual winning goal - at 8:24 of the second. After circling behind the Chicago net, his shot from the goal line bounded in off Khabibulin's skate.

Budaj made a point-blank pad save on Chicago's Duncan Keith with 1:05 left.

"There weren't many chances at the beginning and a couple of times the puck went through me, but God was with me and the puck went into the corner," Budaj said. "In the third period, Chicago starting pinching up the 'D' and putting pressure on us.

"Our guys responded real good and we're happy with the two points."

Notes: The Avalanche made one deal Thursday before the NHL trading deadline. Colorado acquired C Jim Dowd from Chicago for a fourth-round draft pick in 2006. Dowd skated for the Avalanche against his former teammates. ... The Blackhawks, en route to missing the playoffs for the seventh time in eight seasons, made several deals. Chicago also traded C Tyler Arnason to Ottawa for RW Brandon Bochenski and a second-round draft pick this year, and sent D Todd Simpson to Montreal for a sixth-round pick. ... Chicago C Andy Hilbert was claimed off waivers by Pittsburgh. ... Chicago recalled forwards Milan Bartovic and Mark Cullen from Norfolk of the AHL.

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