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Blues-Avalanche Preview @NHLdotcom
Blues-Avalanche Preview

GAME: St. Louis Blues (10-24-5) at Colorado Avalanche (23-17-3).

TIME: Monday, 9 p.m. EST.

The Colorado Avalanche's goaltending situation was a mess just two weeks ago. Since then, David Aebischer has given the Avalanche some stability at the position, and Colorado goes for its season-high fifth consecutive win when it hosts the woeful St. Louis Blues.

On Dec. 26, Colorado coach Joel Quenneville pulled Vitaly Kolesnik three minutes into a 7-4 victory over Phoenix after allowing two goals on two shots. One game later, Quenneville replaced Peter Budaj after 11 minutes for allowing two goals on four shots in a 5-3 loss to Los Angeles.

Kolesnik and Budaj were given opportunities because Aebischer had been struggling. Quenneville benched Aebischer for all but four December starts, games in which he allowed 21 goals and went 0-4.

Quenneville gave Aebischer another chance, though, and the fifth-year player has responded by winning three straight starts, giving up four goals. On Saturday, Aebischer stopped three of four shootout attempts in Colorado's 3-2 win over Columbus.

"He won it tonight and made several key stops at the right time," Quenneville said. "It was nice to see him continue in the right direction, he was instrumental in the win."

Aebischer made 19 saves against the Blue Jackets and has a 1.30 goals-against average and one shutout during his three-game winning streak.

"This is a good time for me," Aebischer said. "This is the stretch I've been waiting for."

Alex Tanguay and Marek Svatos scored both shootout goals and both regulation goals for the Avalanche against the Blue Jackets. The duo gave Colorado a 2-0 first-period lead, adding to the Avalanche's NHL-best total of 62 first-period goals.

"We needed two points. We need to get higher in the rankings and you can't afford to give points to the team below you," said Tanguay, who has a five-game point streak with five goals and three assists during that stretch.

Joe Sakic has 17 goals and 27 assists this season, but has been held without a point the last two games. The 17-year veteran has a nine-game point streak against the Blues, totaling six goals and nine assists in that span.

In six starts against St. Louis, Aebischer is 3-1-2 with a 1.63 GAA and one shutout.

The Blues have won an NHL-low 10 games and have been shut out in their last two road games. St. Louis is coming off a 3-0 loss at Detroit on Thursday night.

The Blues managed only 15 shots on goal and are averaging 24.9 shots on the road, second-worst in the NHL.

Detroit scored twice in the first period and led 2-0 after two, dropping the Blues to 0-18-2 when trailing after 40 minutes.

"It's been a tough year," said Doug Weight, who leads the Blues with 35 points. "But with the depth and the young guys we have, I still think we can turn things around."

St. Louis has dropped four of its last five. The team has 102 goals, second-fewest in the league.

STANDINGS (through Jan. 8): Blues - 25 points, 5th place, 34 PB, Central Division. Avalanche - 49 points, 4th place, 6 PB, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blues - Mike Sillinger, 14 goals; Weight, 26 assists and 35 points; Jamal Mayers, 88 PIM. Avalanche - Svatos, 22 goals; Tanguay, 31 assists and 48 points; Ian Laperriere, 63 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 8): Blues - Power play: 15 percent (40 for 266), tied for 24th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.8 percent (193 for 239), 22nd. Avalanche - Power play: 20.1 percent (53 for 264), 6th. Penalty killing: 85 percent (209 for 246), tied for 3rd.

GOALTENDERS: Blues - Curtis Sanford (4-7-1, 2 SO, 2.76 GAA); Jason Bacashihua (3-3-0, 3.64). Avalanche - Aebischer (14-9-0, 2, 3.29); Budaj (6-5-3, 2.80).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: 1-1-2.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 26, 2004; 2-2 tie. At Denver, Dallas Drake and Keith Tkachuk scored in the second period for the Blues to offset a pair of goals by Colorado's Milan Hejduk.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blues - 5-11-2 on the road; Avalanche - 12-6-3 at home.

Associated Press
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