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Avalanche-Blackhawks Preview @NHL

The Colorado Avalanche will need to string some wins together if they are to keep their playoff streak alive. Many of them would have to come away from home.

The Avalanche have only one such victory over the past six-plus weeks heading into their longest road trip of the season, starting with a matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Colorado (30-29-5) is in 10th place in the Western Conference and will have to make up a double-digit deficit to reach the eighth and final playoff spot over its final 18 games.

Twelve of those contests will be on the road, including each of the next five. The trip also includes stops in Detroit, Boston, Buffalo and Minnesota.

The Avalanche, who have not missed the playoffs since 1993-94 in the season before they moved from Quebec, begin this swing having lost a season-high four straight road games. They have lost seven of eight on the road since winning three straight from Jan. 1-13.

Colorado, though, did win at home in its most recent game, beating Columbus 3-2 on Tuesday. It was just the second win in seven games for the Avalanche, who have not posted consecutive victories since beating Anaheim on Feb. 13 and Calgary on Feb. 15.

Peter Budaj made 21 saves and got the win Tuesday despite allowing two goals in the game's final two minutes.

"It's not about me, it's about us catching the eighth team in our conference," Budaj said. "It's a big two points for us. It doesn't matter if we win 20-19 or 1-0. It's a step forward."

Andrew Brunette, Paul Stastny and Mark Rycroft each scored goals and Milan Hejduk added two assists for Colorado.

"It feels good," Stastny said. "It gives us a bit of confidence. We've haven't played well lately. But I think just getting the win will help us out a little bit."

Stastny will take a 13-game point streak and Brunette an 11-game streak into Thursday night's game. That duo has combined for only one point in three meetings this season with Chicago (23-31-9), and the Avalanche have lost two of them.

Wojtek Wolski scored twice in Colorado's 3-2 win over Chicago on Dec. 23 in the most recent meeting, but enters this matchup pointless in his last five games.

Budaj was not in net for any of the three meetings with the Blackhawks, but is 2-0-1 with a 1.96 goals-against average in his career against them.

Colorado was active at Tuesday's trade deadline, but did not do much to immediately improve its chances of making the playoffs. The team acquired minor-league goalie Michael Wall from Anaheim for forward Brad May and reacquired forward Scott Parker from San Jose for a sixth-round draft pick.

Wall is a prospect but will likely sit behind Budaj and Jose Theodore this season, while Parker played just 11 games due to ankle and back injuries.

Chicago is coming off its sixth loss in seven games, 4-1 to Detroit on Tuesday.

The Blackhawks (23-31-9) played their first game since acquiring forward Jason Williams, who was part of a three-way trade that included Detroit and Philadelphia.

Williams, who had 11 goals and 26 points with Detroit, was held scoreless Tuesday as Chicago played without leading scorer Martin Havlat, who was out with the flu.

"I know he's a very talented player, he's very fast and he uses his speed to back 'D' off and gives everyone else a little more room to create offense," Williams said of Havlat, who has 24 goals and 49 points. "Obviously with him out of the lineup, it's a little tougher."

Chicago, which traded second-leading scorer Brian Smolinski to Vancouver this week, is expected to have third-year right wing Nikita Alexeev on Thursday. He was acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay for forward Karl Stewart on Tuesday. Alexeev had a career-best 21 points in 63 games with the Lightning this season.

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