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Avs seek points against similarly struggling Hawks

by Rick Sadowski /
DENVER -- Something has to give Tuesday night when two slumping teams, the Chicago Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche, meet at the Pepsi Center.

The Blackhawks, playing the fourth game in a nine-game road trip, have been outscored 22-10 in a five-game winless streak (0-4-1) and have been outscored 30-17 during a seven-game road winless streak (0-5-2) since a 4-3 shootout victory at Minnesota on Dec. 14.

The Avalanche, playing the third game of a four-game homestand, have been outscored 12-8 in a five-game winless streak (0-4-1) and outscored 34-21 during a 3-7-2 slide since a 4-0 victory in Chicago on Jan. 6 that capped a streak in which the team won nine of 10 games.


Struggling Hawks trying to right ship

Brian Hedger - Correspondent
Chicago has dipped to the sixth spot in the Western Conference, and Western Canadian teams are at the root of the problem.
The Blackhawks are in sixth place in the Western Conference with 65 points and would seem to be a lock to earn a playoff berth, but the Avalanche have fallen into 12th place with 55 points. Colorado is just three points behind Minnesota, which holds the eighth and final postseason position, but the Wild have played two fewer games and three other teams -- Dallas, Phoenix and Calgary -- have between one and three games in hand.

While Chicago has had problems keeping pucks out of its net in recent games, the Avalanche offense has been in a deep freeze, scoring two goals or fewer in 12 of the past 14 games.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is counting on goalie Ray Emery to help his team get untracked. Emery will make his second start in a row after stopping 29 shots in a 3-1 loss last Friday in Calgary. Corey Crawford, who won 33 games last season, is winless in his past four starts and was replaced by Emery early in the third period of an 8-4 loss in Edmonton last Thursday after he gave up five goals on 28 shots.

"He has played very well basically every time he's been in the net for us this year," Quenneville said of Emery, who has an 11-4-2 record with a 2.73 goals-against average and .904 save percentage. "He's been consistent, solid, predictable and dependable. The guys played well in front of him the other night. He earned another start."

Meanwhile, Avalanche coach Joe Sacco is hoping the presence of rookie defenseman Tyson Barrie, who will make his NHL debut tonight, can provide some energy and offensive production for a team that badly needs to start collecting more goals and wins.

Barrie, 20, was summoned on Saturday from the Lake Erie Monsters in the American Hockey League when fellow rookie defenseman Stefan Elliott was assigned to the Cleveland-based team.

"A spark, much like when 'Ellie' got called up here (in late November)," Sacco said when asked what Barrie can deliver. "It's an opportunity for a young player to try and grab the attention of the team and the coaches. He was having a real strong season down in Lake Erie. We'll throw him in some situations offensively, play him on one of the power-play units. We want him to play his game."

A third-round pick (No. 64) in the 2009 Entry Draft, Barrie was leading the Monsters and all AHL rookie defensemen in scoring with 29 points (five goals, 24 assists) in 46 games. The son of former NHL player Len Barrie, Tyson finished second to Elliott last year in voting for the Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy as Western Hockey League Defensive Player of the Year while with the Kelowna Rockets after winning the award the previous season.

The Avalanche haven't gotten a goal from a defenseman in 14 consecutive games, since Kyle Quincey scored Dec. 31 at Anaheim.

"I'll try and treat this as a normal game as best I can," said Barrie, whose parents and girlfriend will be in attendance. "Right now I'm more excited than nervous. I'll probably be feeling it a little more tonight, but right now I'm trying to take it as normal a game as much as I can."

Ray Emery
Goalie - CHI
RECORD: 11-4-2
GAA: 2.73 | SVP: 0.904
Barrie was getting ready to take a nap before a Lake Erie game when he got the call to pack his bags and head to Denver.

"It was kind of a crazy feeling," he said. "It was something I had been waiting for for a while. It was a real shock at the time, considering (the Avalanche) had eight healthy 'D' and everything seemed to be normal at the top, no injuries or anything. It came out of the blue, but it was a real nice surprise."

Barrie was sorry to find out that he'd be replacing Elliott, who had 4 goals and 7 assists in 30 games with the Avalanche but had gone 13 games without a goal.

"We grew up playing against each other since we were kids and we've played together a few times," Barrie said. "We'd become really good buddies, so I'd rather be up here with him, but that's the way things go. He had a good stint up here and he showed he can play. Hopefully I can do the same thing."

Sacco said that Barrie, who is 5-feet-10 and 190 pounds, makes up for his smallish stature with a fiery competitive nature.

"From what we saw of him in training camp and in the preseason, he always seemed to find a way to come up with loose pucks," Sacco said. "To me, it's not so much about size; can you win one-on-one battles? He did that very well in training camp and according to the coach down in Lake Erie (David Quinn), he did the same thing there."
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