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GAME: Colorado Avalanche (29-19-5) at Nashville Predators (31-15-6).

TIME: Thursday, 8 p.m. EST.

Starting off the month against the Nashville Predators worked well for David Aebischer and the Colorado Avalanche in January. They'll try it again in February.

Coming off a 9-2-2 record through one month of 2006, the Avalanche visit the Predators, whom Aebischer shut out 3-0 on Jan. 3 at the Pepsi Center.

The shutout followed a winless December and kicked off a 9-2-1 month for the Colorado goaltender, breaking Patrick Roy's single-season franchise record for victories in January.

"It's good to beat at least one record of his," said Aebischer, who was Roy's backup in 2001 when Roy set the record.

Aebischer made 27 saves in Tuesday night's 3-2 victory at Minnesota. Colorado wrapped up its four-game homestand with a 2-1-1 mark.

"It wasn't easy in December, but I found a way to battle out of it," Aebischer said. "I didn't worry about whatever happened around me. I just played my game. That was the simple ingredient to better play on my part."

Milan Hejduk snapped out of a personal slump with one goal and one assist, his first points since Jan. 17.

"It has been frustrating the whole year," said Hejduk, who scored a goal for just the second time in 13 games. "You battle, and the pucks don't go in. Tonight, one went in."

The Predators return home in need of a turnaround after losing the final three games of a five-game road swing.

The trip started with consecutive victories at Detroit on Jan. 23-24, which moved the Predators into a first-place tie with the Red Wings in the Central Division. Detroit has gone 3-0-1 since to open a seven-point lead over Nashville.

The Predators lost 2-1 Wednesday night at Dallas, going 0-for-6 on the power play and managing just a third-period goal by Martin Erat. Nashville scored just 10 total goals on its five-game road trip.

"It's a long season and there's going to be some ups and down," said Tomas Vokoun, who stopped 21 shots. "We have to keep our focus. This is not the time to panic."

Mike Sillinger did not register a point in his Predators debut after arriving in a Sunday trade with the St. Louis Blues. Sillinger had scored at least one goal in each of his last seven games with the Blues.

Center Scott Nichol remained in a Dallas hospital for observation overnight with a probable concussion sustained in the second period of Wednesday's game.

Nashville had defeated the Avalanche five straight times prior to the Jan. 3 loss at Colorado, and has won the last two meetings in the series at Gaylord Entertainment Center.

STANDINGS: Avalanche - 63 points, 3rd place, 4 PB, Northwest Division. Predators - 68 points, 2nd place, 7 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Avalanche - Marek Svatos, 30 goals; Alex Tanguay, 39 assists and 62 points; Ian Laperriere, 82 PIM. Predators - Steve Sullivan, 25 goals; Paul Kariya, 33 assists; Kariya, 50 points; Darcy Hordichuk, 107 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Avalanche - Power play: 20.7 percent (69 for 334), 3rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.2 percent (254 for 298), 4th. Predators - Power play: 18.6 percent (62 for 334), 9th. Penalty killing: 84.4 percent (282 for 334), 8th.

GOALTENDERS: Avalanche - Aebischer (20-11-1, 2 SO, 3.14 GAA); Peter Budaj (6-5-4, 0, 2.73). Predators - Vokoun (25-11-5, 1, 2.61); Chris Mason (5-3-1, 0, 3.16).

SEASON SERIES: Predators, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 3; Avalanche, 3-0. At Denver, Aebischer made 32 saves for his 12th career shutout and former Predator Bob Boughner scored his first goal since the 2002-03 season.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Avalanche - 12-12-0 on the road; Predators - 19-5-1 at home.

Associated Press
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