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Avs on the verge of tying shootout record

by Brian Hedger
CHICAGO -- The last time they were here, the Colorado Avalanche spoiled the Chicago Blackhawks' party to unveil statues for Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita on Oct. 22 with a 5-4 shootout win.

Joakim Lindstrom's wrist shot beat Chicago goalie Corey Crawford in the third round, after Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov stopped attempts by Viktor Stalberg, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. At that point, in less than a month's worth of games, the Avs had accrued a 3-0 record in shootouts.

A little more than two months later, that shootout record is now up to 7-0 for the season and up to 10 wins in a row dating back to last season -- which is one shootout win away from tying the 2005-06 Dallas Stars' League-record of 11 straight.

Why are the Avs so good at that portion of the game?

"It's a great question," Colorado coach Joe Sacco said, following the Avs' optional skate at United Center on Friday morning. "I'd like to say that it's because I pick the right guys, but that's certainly not it. I've used the same guys now for a while. We're just confident if we do get in those situations."

Veteran forward Milan Hejduk certainly plays a big role. He's usually the lead-off shooter for Sacco, and this season he's scored on five of his seven attempts in the shootout -- a success rate of 71.4 percent.

"That's pretty impressive," Sacco said. "He really sets the tone for the shootout. Then the guys that follow up feed off of that. It's just like anything else. When you're feeling good about yourself in certain situations, confidence overtakes that and I think that's where we're at with (shootouts)."

Hejduk agreed.

"Like everything else, it brings the confidence to even our regular game," said Hejduk, who has taken the first shot in all seven shootouts this season, including scoring to start Monday's 2-1 shootout win in Los Angeles. "We know if we can push it to overtime and then go to the shootout that we'll usually do fine. You're starting the shootout already with the confidence that more likely than not we'll probably win."

Scoring that first goal also might help the Avs' goalies gain a boost of confidence. Varlamov is 6-0 in shootouts this season, while Jean-Sebastien Giguere won the only one he's been in so far.

"You'd have to ask the goalies, but maybe that makes them relax a little bit more,” Hejduk told "We are scoring some goals and the goalies are playing well. That's probably been the difference, is goaltending. It only takes one or two goals for us to win."
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