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Avs aim for seventh in row at home, face test in Blues

by Brian Hunter /
BLUES (19-9-4) at AVALANCHE (16-17-1)


Last 10:
St. Louis 7-1-2; Colorado 6-4-0

Season Series:
Second of four meetings. Ryan O'Reilly scored the game-tying goal in the third period and the decisive shootout goal as the Avalanche earned a 3-2 win over the Blues in Colorado on Dec. 2. The teams still have to play a pair of games in St. Louis, on Jan. 7 and Feb. 11, 2012.

Big Story: With a 13-2-4 record since Ken Hitchcock took over behind the bench, the Blues are making a move to challenge for both the Central Division and Western Conference leads. It's hard to imagine them being in such a position without the unexpected heroics of goalie Brian Elliott. The fourth-year goalie entered the season as basically a castoff after the Senators and Avalanche disposed of him, but he enters Wednesday leading the NHL in goals-against average (1.43) and save percentage (.948), and tied for the lead with 4 shutouts, all while posting a 13-2-0 record. After Hitchcock gave Jaroslav Halak back-to-back starts over the weekend, it's likely Elliott will be back in net against the Avalanche.

Team Scope:

Blues: In giving up the go-ahead goal with 1.3 seconds left in the second period Sunday night, St. Louis presented itself with a test heading into the final 20 minutes against Columbus. It's safe to say the Blues passed with flying colors, as they rallied for four goals and a 6-4 win over the Blue Jackets. Alex Steen evened the score just 58 seconds into the third, Jason Arnott put them in front and Alex Pietrangelo netted what would turn out to be the game-winner.

"Good teams find ways to win," Pietrangelo said. "We had to score six goals to do it and we're not going to be able to do that every time out. But it's good to know we can do it if we have to."

Early in the season Colorado couldn't buy a win at the Pepsi Center, but now the Avalanche are aiming for a seventh straight win on home ice. Facing the Flyers on Monday, they had to survive a Wayne Simmonds goal with 18.1 seconds left in regulation, but the Avs went a perfect 3-for-3 in the shootout as Milan Hejduk, Matt Duchene and O'Reilly all scored. The Flyers connected on their first two attempts, but Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped Matt Read to secure the second point.

"It was a real big two points for us," coach Joe Sacco said. "We continue to build something here pretty strong at home. We win in a shootout despite giving up a late goal. It's still a very good win against the team that leads the NHL in goals; we held them to one goal until the final seconds. They're one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference as well, so it's gratifying."

Who's Hot: T.J. Oshie has goals in consecutive games for the Blues and over his past six games has 4 goals and 3 assists. Arnott missed a game over the weekend due to illness but has a goal in each of the last two he's played. … Erik Johnson has 1 goal and 4 assists during a four-game points streak for the Avalanche. Giguere has won consecutive starts, stopping 56 of 59 shots, a .949 save percentage.

Injury Report: St. Louis forwards B.J. Crombeen (scapula), Andy McDonald (concussion) and Vladimir Sobotka (ankle) and defenseman Kent Huskins (ankle) are on injured reserve. … Colorado forward David Jones and defenseman Kyle Quincey are day-to-day with groin injuries. Forwards Peter Mueller (concussion), Brandon Yip (groin) and Chuck Kobasew (head) and defenseman Ryan Wilson (head) are on injured reserve. Forward David Van Der Gulik left the team to be with his wife, who is expecting the couple's first child.

Stat Pack:
Halak is 5-1-4 over his last 10 starts for the Blues. … The Avalanche have won nine consecutive shootouts, a new franchise record. They've won 17 of their last 18 and 32 of their last 42 tiebreakers.

Puck Drop:
Colorado rookie forward Gabriel Landeskog ended an 18-game goal drought and scored the first of his career at Pepsi Center on Monday.

"It is a huge two points for our hockey club," said Landeskog, whose goal tied the score in the second period against Philadelphia. "We worked really hard for this one."

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