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Avalanche aim for 50th win in visit to Blues

by Brian Hunter

AVALANCHE (49-21-6) at BLUES (52-17-7)


Last 10: Colorado 6-3-1; St. Louis 7-3-0

Season series: This is the fourth and final game between the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues. The Avalanche will try to avoid being swept by the Blues, who have outscored them 13-5, though the most recent game on March 8 was a tightly played 2-1 final.

Big story: Only the 2000-01 Stanley Cup team has won 50 games in a season in Colorado/Quebec franchise history. Rookie coach Patrick Roy can lead the 2013-14 Avalanche to that accomplishment with a win Saturday. Semyon Varlamov can also tie Roy's franchise single-season record by picking up his 40th win.

Team Scope:

Avalanche: Roy joked Thursday afternoon he was thinking about holding Varlamov out as the six-year NHL veteran closed in on his wins record. As it stands, Varlamov will start again Saturday as well as Tuesday against the Edmonton Oilers, but with the Stanley Cup Playoffs approaching, Roy wants to give starts to Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Reto Berra when the Avalanche close the regular season with three games in four days.

Varlamov, who has already far exceeded his previous single-season win total of 26 and also boasts a .926 save percentage (his previous career best is .924), doesn't just have personal stats to think about; the Avalanche are trying to hold off the Chicago Blackhawks for second place in the Central Division and home ice in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Rallying for a 3-2 shootout win against the New York Rangers on Thursday helped matters. Defenseman Tyson Barrie had the tying goal with 51.4 seconds left in regulation and the only goal in the penalty-shot tiebreaker.

"What has made the difference with Barrie? He went to the minors and worked on his game and he plays north hockey," Roy said in the Denver Post. "We did not want him to play east-west anymore. He has our full confidence."

Blues: A franchise record fell in St. Louis after the Blues edged the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 on Thursday. Their 52nd win of the season eclipsed the standard set by the 1999-2000 squad, which also racked up 114 points -- a total this season's squad is poised to surpass as well.

"(The record) is a special thing, but tomorrow it really means nothing," said goaltender Brian Elliott, who made 24 saves Thursday. "We have to keep going, get better tomorrow and get ready for these last few games."

With six games remaining, the Blues have to contend with the Anaheim Ducks for the top seed in the Western Conference as well as the Boston Bruins in the race for the Presidents' Trophy. They have a comfortable seven-point lead over the Avalanche for the Central title.

Who's hot: Avalanche forward Paul Stastny has one goal and five assists during a five-game point streak. Barrie has two goals and two assists in his past five games. … Blues goalie Ryan Miller has a 2.01 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in 14 starts since being acquired from the Buffalo Sabres.

Injury report: Colorado forward Cody McLeod (ankle/knee) left the game Thursday and is day-to-day. Forward PA Parenteau (knee) could return at the end of the regular season or by the start of the playoffs. Forward Matt Duchene (knee) is likely out until some point in the first or second round. … St. Louis defenseman Barret Jackman (lower body) and forward Alexander Steen (upper body) were out of the lineup Thursday. Jackman is set to return, but Steen won't and is probably out Sunday as well. Forward Vladimir Tarasenko (hand) remains sidelined.

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