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Avalanche set to host red-hot Blues

by Deborah Francisco /

BLUES (26-16-2) at AVALANCHE (14-23-7)


Last 10: St. Louis 8-2-0, Colorado 2-5-3

Season series: This is the second of three meetings. In their first showdown on Feb 11 in St. Louis, the Avalanche prevailed 1-0 in overtime.

Big Story: The Blues can clinch a playoff spot if they earn at least one point against the Colorado Avalanche. They also can clinch a spot if the San Jose Sharks defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets in any fashion and the Los Angeles Kings beat the Dallas Stars in regulation.

Team Scope:

Blues: The Blues have warmed up at the right time, rolling through opponents throughout the month of April with nine victories in the past 11 games. They are just one point out of fourth place in the West as they chase home-ice advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Brian Elliott has played a big role in the team’s recent success as St. Louis has only allowed 14 goals in 11 games. Elliott has two shutouts in his past three appearances.

"The whole story for me here for the month of April has been defense and goaltending," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They've done an outstanding job. ... To me, defense and goaltending ... I was just thinking watching us play, we're not easy to play against in our own end. You're not going to get any free looks."

Avalanche: Colorado concludes a four-game homestand Sunday. The Avs are 1-1-1 and will attempt to bounce back from a 4-1 loss to Edmonton on Friday night.

“When you’re having the kind of year we’re having and you make those kinds of mistakes, it always ends up in the back of your net for some reason," defenseman Shane O'Brien said of Friday's loss. "There’s a lot of character in this room. The boys haven’t quit. We’re staying together. That’s impressive. We’re working hard every day. Obviously, no one’s happy, and it’s frustrating.”

However, Colorado has been successful on the penalty kill lately, allowing just one power play goal in its past six contests. The Avalanche rank first in the NHL in home penalty killing percentage at 91.9 percent (79-for-86).

Who's hot: Elliott has allowed one goal in his past three appearances. … PA Parenteau notched the lone goal for Colorado on Friday and continues to lead the Avalanche in scoring with 41 points (17 goals, 24 assists).

Injury report: The Blues are without forwards Scott Nichol (lower body), T.J. Oshie (foot), Jamie Langenbrunner (hip) and goalie Jaroslav Halak (lower body). … Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson has missed the past three games with a hand injury and is questionable for Sunday.

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