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Avalanche-Stars Preview @NHLdotcom

GAME: Colorado Avalanche (34-21-6) at Dallas Stars (38-18-3).

TIME: Saturday, 8 p.m. EST.

The Olympic break didn't slow the momentum of the surging Colorado Avalanche.

The Avalanche go for their third straight post-break victory, and sixth in their last seven games overall when they face the Dallas Stars in the opener of a four-game road trip.

With wins over the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets this week, Colorado has improved to 14-4-3 in 2006. The Avalanche, who were seven points out of first place at the beginning of the year, have moved into the thick of a tight Northwest Division race with the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks.

Colorado defeated the Wild 4-2 Tuesday and beat the Blue Jackets 1-0 on Thursday.

Goaltender David Aebischer continued his solid play by stopping 24 Columbus shots and making several spectacular saves. He turned away two screened shots during two late power-play chances for the Blue Jackets, who were held scoreless in six opportunities.

Aebischer also stopped a shot from Columbus' David Vyborny late in the second period while down on the ice.

"I had a lucky bounce on the Vyborny shot," said Aebischer, 13-4-2 with a 2.40 goals-against average since New Year's Eve. "It was a double deflection. He just couldn't put it past me."

The Avalanche peppered Columbus goalie Pascal Leclaire with 40 shots, but defenseman Brett Clark scored the lone goal of the game, his seventh of the season.

Colorado also faces Minnesota, St. Louis and Chicago on its trip.

Unlike Colorado, the Stars have been struggling. They've allowed six goals in each of their last three games - all losses - after winning eight of their previous nine contests.

The Stars lost 6-2 to the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday in their first game after the break.

"This is the worst our defense has played all season, hands down," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "Giving up six goals a night just isn't going to cut it. We just kept on getting beaten and making mistakes, then the penalties we took ended up in our net."

The Stars have been short-handed 10 times in each of their last two games, and have allowed five power-play goals over that span, including three to the Coyotes.

Dallas forward Bill Guerin scored for the fourth time in five games Thursday with his 12th goal of the season.

STANDINGS: Avalanche - 74 points, 3rd place, 1 PB, Northwest Division. Stars - 79 points, 1st place, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Avalanche - Marek Svatos, 32 goals; Alex Tanguay, 42 assists and 66 points; Ian Laperriere, 90 PIM. Stars - Jere Lehtinen, 27 goals; Sergei Zubov, 40 assists; Jason Arnott, 56 points; Brenden Morrow, 141 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Avalanche - Power play: 19.8 percent (74 for 374), 5th (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 85 percent (283 for 333), 7th. Stars - Power play: 15.6 percent (58 for 371), 23rd. Penalty killing: 83.2 percent (307 for 369), 11th.

GOALTENDERS: Avalanche - Aebischer (24-13-2, 3 SO, 3.01 GAA); Peter Budaj (7-4-2, 2.62). Stars - Marty Turco (29-15-3, 3, 2.64); Johan Hedberg (9-3-0, 2.74).

SEASON SERIES: Stars, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 26; Stars 3-2, SO. At Denver, Stu Barnes forced overtime with a goal at 18:01 of the third period for Dallas, and Zubov and Jussi Jokinen scored in the shootout.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Avalanche - 14-13-1 on the road; Stars - 20-10-1 at home.

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