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Avalanche hope to start new winning streak vs. Stars

by Brian Hunter
AVALANCHE (30-16-6) at STARS (23-19-11)

Last 10: Colorado 7-3-0; Dallas 5-5-0

Season Series:
Third of four meetings this season and second in the last six days. Colorado has won both matchups this season on its home ice, 4-1 on Dec. 26 and 4-0 this past Sunday. Craig Anderson stopped all 27 shots for the shutout and the Avalanche extended their winning streak to a season-high six games.

Big Story:
Thanks to an accompanying six-game winning streak by Vancouver, Colorado managed to drop out of the Northwest Division lead even before its own streak was snapped Thursday in a 1-0 loss to Minnesota. That also spelled the end of a five-game homestand for the Avalanche, which still play six of their nine remaining games before the Olympic break at the Pepsi Center. They trail the Canucks by two points.

Team Scope:

After averaging 3.67 goals per game during its run, Colorado's offensive well finally ran dry against Minnesota and backup goalie Josh Harding. Thrust into the starting role with Niklas Backstrom out, Harding turned aside 29 shots. Anderson was working on a shutout of his own until Martin Havlat scored with 4:49 remaining for the decisive tally.

"They forced us to make mistakes, and that’s when they scored," rookie Matt Duchene said. "Even their goal was a couple of lucky bounces for them. Havlat missed the pass first and it came right back to him and got through."

Stars: Dallas begins play Friday in 11th place, three points behind Calgary for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff berth. In their most recent game, the Stars gained a valuable point on those fading Flames by rallying for a 4-3 shootout victory. They trailed 3-1 before James Neal scored in the final half-minute of the second period and Brad Richards added a power-play goal in the third. Loui Eriksson netted the shootout winner.

"I really give our team credit because down 3-1, we very easily could have folded," coach Marc Crawford said. "We had everybody battling. The Richards line got it going with the goal by James and that was huge. I think coming into the second intermission only down one gave us some confidence. We knew that we got a lot of chances in the second period, especially late, and that we were ready to make a push."

Who's Hot:
So much for the concern that Anderson wouldn't hold up under such a heavy workload. He's started seven consecutive games for Colorado and allowed a total of three goals in his last five, stopping 142 of 145 shots for an extraordinary .979 save percentage.

Neal has two goals and two assists in the last five games for Dallas. Eriksson has three goals and two assists in the last six games. Mike Modano has four goals and an assist in the last seven games.

Injury Report:
Forward Marek Svatos missed Thursday's game for the Avalanche with a bruised chest. Defensemen Adam Foote (ankle) and Ruslan Salei (back) and forwards David Jones (torn ACL), Milan Hejduk (knee) and Matt Hendricks (ankle) are on injured reserve.

The Stars may activate veteran forward Jere Lehtinen (upper body) on Friday. They lost forward Tom Wandell for the season due to a knee injury. Forward Mike Ribeiro remains out after a tracheotomy.

Stat Pack:
Anderson had a shutout streak of 146 minutes, 24 seconds ended by Havlat's goal. … Steve Ott has the lone goal Dallas has scored in two games against Colorado this season.
Puck Drop:
In Wandell's absence, the 39-year-old Modano has seen expanded ice time, playing over 18 minutes against Calgary. The all-time leading U.S.-born scorer has been given off days from practice in a couple instances as the coaching staff attempts to keep him fresh.

"We're going to try to give Mike every opportunity to rejuvenate because this is a very difficult period that we're going through right now with the intensity of the games," Crawford said. "The intensity of the schedule, playing every second day until the break and the fact that we've got to do all that we can to make sure that he's at his best in the game, that's what counts."

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