Blue Jackets-Avalanche Preview
GAME: Columbus Blue Jackets (12-27-1) at Colorado Avalanche (22-17-3).
TIME: Saturday, 3 p.m. EST.
Although steady goaltending has been an unusual concept for the Colorado Avalanche for most of the season, things may be starting to turn around.
The Avalanche go for a fourth straight victory when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Colorado's three-game winning streak has featured good performances in net from Peter Budaj and David Aebischer. Budaj made 30 saves in a 5-2 win over Phoenix on Dec. 31 and Aebischer followed with two strong outings. He stopped 32 shots in a shutout of Nashville on Tuesday and made 33 saves in a 4-2 win over Minnesota on Thursday night.
"The last two games I've played better, the way I know I can," said Aebischer. "I've been struggling, but it's good to be back."
Before winning his last two starts, Aebischer had been 0-4 with a 5.70 goals-against average in his previous five appearances.
Marek Svatos broke Chris Drury's team record for goals by a rookie on Tuesday, netting his 21st of the season. Drury had 20 in 79 games in 1998-99. Svatos needed only 41 games to break the record.
Colorado hasn't won four in a row since Oct. 25-Nov. 3, but with nine of its next 11 games at home, the Avalanche have a chance to gain ground in the Western Conference.
"In the position we're in, being so close to being out of the playoffs, we can't afford any breakdowns," left winger Alex Tanguay said. "If we work every game like we're desperate, we're going to win our share of games."
Colorado has dominated Columbus since the Blue Jackets joined the NHL in 2000. The Avs' only loss in 17 all-time meetings came in overtime on Feb. 28, 2004. Columbus has never won in eight visits to Colorado.
The Blue Jackets will be looking to avoid a third straight loss as they continue a five-game road swing. After opening the trip with a 3-2 win over Chicago, Columbus has allowed 11 goals in losses at Detroit and San Jose.
The Blue Jackets lost 6-3 to the Sharks on Thursday despite two power-play goals from Rick Nash.
"We just gave them too many chances, and they scored on every one of them," Nash said.
Bryan Berard had two assists for Columbus in his return from injured reserve. The defenseman had missed seven games with a lower back injury.
Columbus finishes its trip Sunday against Phoenix.
STANDINGS: Blue Jackets - 25 points, 4th place (tied), 34 PB, Central Division. Avalanche - 47 points, 4th place, 7 PB, Northwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Blue Jackets - Nikolai Zherdev, 11 goals; David Vyborny and Berard, 15 assists; Zherdev and Vyborny, 22 points; Jody Shelley, 78 PIM. Avalanche - Svatos, 21 goals; Tanguay, 31 assists and 47 points; Ian Laperriere, 63 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Blue Jackets - Power play: 12 percent (28 for 234), 30th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.2 percent (226 for 275), 16th. Avalanche - Power play: 19.8 percent (51 for 257), 6th. Penalty killing: 84.8 percent (207 for 244), 5th (tied).
GOALTENDERS: Blue Jackets - Marc Denis (7-16-0, 1 SO, 3.37 GAA); Pascal Leclaire (2-8-1, 3.84). Avalanche - Aebischer (13-9-0, 2, 3.36); Budaj (6-5-3, 2.80).
SEASON SERIES: Avalanche, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 25; Avalanche, 5-0. At Columbus, Ohio, Svatos had a goal and two assists and Aebischer made 35 saves as Colorado handed Columbus its seventh straight loss.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blue Jackets - 4-16-1 on the road; Avalanche - 11-6-3 at home.