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Avs top Blackhawks, 4-0, for fourth straight win

by Brian Hedger
CHICAGO -- Joe Sacco wants more offense out his line centered by Paul Stastny, especially with his Colorado Avalanche missing injured star Matt Duchene for the next few weeks with a knee injury.

Stastny came into Friday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks with just 11 goals and 21 points in 38 games while playing on a line that now has T.J. Galiardi and David Jones flanking him.

Sacco got just what he was looking for on Friday night. Galiardi and Jones both scored goals, Stastny added an assist on Galiardi's tally and Semyon Varlamov made 27 saves for his second shutout to lead the Avs to a 4-0 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks in front of 21,807 at the United Center.

"We talked about it in practice (on Thursday) and even (Friday) morning," Galiardi said of Sacco's desire for more production from his line. "Our whole thing was to be aggressive, have Jonesy and I get to it and give it to (Stastny) and he's going to do the rest – and he showed it tonight. If we can keep doing that, I think we'll have success."

Erik Johnson had a pair of assists for the Avs, while Galiardi also got into a fight with Dave Bolland eight minutes into the third – after Bolland hit Stastny near the Hawks bench. That gave him the famed Gordie Howe hat trick.

"Definitely my first fight and first ‘Gordie,' " Galiardi said. "It wasn't the greatest fight in the world, but it doesn't matter. A guy hits Paulie like that, I don't care who it is. I'm going to stick up for him."

David Van Der Gulik added his first goal of the season and second of his career midway through the second and Chuck Kobasew scored on a late tip-in as Colorado (23-18-1) won its fourth in a row and ninth in its last 10 games.

Chicago (24-13-4) dropped its third straight game in regulation for just the second time this season and lost for the fourth time in five games. The Hawks also saw their record fall to 6-2-1 in the second of back-to-back games. Corey Crawford (18 saves) started in goal and took his second straight loss, but the defense in front of him struggled as much, if not more, than he did.

The usual second pairing of Nick Leddy (minus-4) and Niklas Hjalmarsson (minus-3) was split up after Van Der Gulik's goal, but it wasn't just them. The Hawks looked out of sorts for most of the game and didn't complete the 41st game of the season – the halfway point – the way coach Joel Quenneville had hoped while talking to the media before the game.

The Hawks then went out and looked anything but consistent and predictable. They got outskated and outplayed for much of the game – and when they did win some battles to create scoring chances, shots missed the net badly, were stopped by Varlamov or hit the post.

Jonathan Toews missed the net on a backhander in front of the crease in the first, while Viktor Stalberg rung one off the right post in the third after getting a stretch pass from Toews and breaking in alone. Even if he'd scored, the Hawks still would have trailed by two goals.

"We just didn't work hard enough again," Hjalmarsson said. "It's not a good game at all. We just got outworked basically. It's not like we're doing it on purpose, we're obviously trying. It just comes down to doing all the small things … get the puck deep and go to work. We've been struggling with that the last couple of games and that's why we're not winning."

Chicago came into this game after dropping a tough 5-4 decision in Philadelphia on Thursday night and will next face the rival Detroit Red Wings for the second time this season on Sunday at the United Center.

"We're still pretty good in the standings," Hjalmarsson said. "It's just the last couple games here in the first half haven't been good enough, and hopefully we can start the second half with a couple of wins and get it rolling again."

As for the Avs, they finish up a back-to-back on Saturday in St. Louis – and go into that game feeling pretty good despite not having Duchene.

"You can't just have one line contribute and having Gali and Jonesy on that line with me gives us more shoot-first players," Stastny said. "It's tough to lose one of your top players and playmakers, especially offensively, but we've got to find a way to get goals and do as well as we can – so that when we get (Duchene) back it's just an added bonus."

Scoring first was Jones, whom Sacco moved up from the third line to play right wing next to Stastny. He wanted the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Jones to be a physical presence, but got that from both Jones (four hits) and the 6-2, 190-pound Galiardi (three hits).

Jones, playing just his third game after an eight-game absence because of a groin injury, tipped a point blast by Johnson in the slot at 12:57 of the first to give the Avs an early 1-0 lead. That goal plus a couple of nice saves by Varlamov highlighted the first, in which Colorado outshot Chicago 8-5 and the Hawks missed the net seven times.

In all, Chicago missed the net 19 times and went 0-for-1 on the power play – extending its woes with the man-advantage to just one goal in the last 23 opportunities.

Galiardi made it 2-0 just 1:47 into the second on a beautiful backside pass from Stastny for a one-time rocket from the right circle before Van Der Gulik pushed it to 3-0 off a loose rebound in front of the crease – an opportunity created by a Hawks turnover behind the net.

Kobasew's goal with 1:56 left was merely icing on the cake.
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