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Blues put five-game win streak on line against Avs

by John Kreiser
BLUES (30-25-9) at AVALANCHE (36-22-6)

Last 10 -- St. Louis 6-3-1; Colorado 6-4-0

Season series --
It's the third meeting of the season between the Western Conference rivals, and the Blues are looking for their first win. Colorado won 4-0 at St. Louis on Dec. 7 and 5-2 at Denver on Feb. 8 -- a game that marks the Blues' last loss.

Big story --
Just as they did last season, the Blues are on fire as they come down the home stretch. St. Louis started the post-Olympic break portion of its schedule with road wins at Phoenix (5-2) and Dallas (5-1) to extend its winning streak to five. But the Avs are one of the NHL's best stories this season -- despite a 3-1 loss at Phoenix on Thursday, Colorado is sixth in the West with 78 points and has already surpassed last season's total.

Team Scope:

Blues -- St. Louis has regrouped under new coach Davis Payne, working its way up from 14th place and 12 points out of the final playoff berth in the West to a tie for ninth, just a point out of eighth. It's an echo of last season, when the Blues rallied from last in the West and finished with a 9-1-1 surge to make the playoffs.

"I'm new to the situation, but I'm aware of what happened last year," said coach Davis Payne, who took over for the fired Andy Murray on Jan. 2. "This is a new (season). We know exactly what we have to do and it's good for us to have that type of experience to know it's possible."

Avalanche --
Colorado has lost two of three since returning after the Olympics, but Thursday's loss in Phoenix was especially tough to take. After winning in Anaheim on Wednesday, the Avs were 22.7 seconds away from at least getting a point until Wojtek Wolski scored for the Coyotes -- one day after being dealt to Phoenix by the Avs.

"I thought we played hard and thought we competed," coach Joe Sacco said. "Considering we played the night before, I thought it was a great game. I like the way we're playing. It was a tough way to lose a hockey game, no question about it."

Who's hot --
Paul Kariya has 4 goals and 4 assists during the Blues' five-game winning streak. T.J. Oshie has goals in each of the last four games and a goal and an assist in each of the last three. … Peter Mueller, acquired from Phoenix in the Wolski deal, has a goal and an assist in his first two games with the Avs.

Injury report --
Blues forward Keith Tkachuk is still out after undergoing surgery during the Olympic break to repair a broken finger. … Avs rookie forward Brandon Yip injured his shoulder on Monday and will miss 4-6 weeks.

Stat pack --
The Blues have 23 goals during their five-game winning streak and have scored at four goals in each game. Before that, they had four goals just once in their previous 12 games. A win would give the Blues their first six-game winning streak since Dec. 6-18, 2003. … Avs goalie Craig Anderson, who has started 19 consecutive games, has lost three of his last four with a 2.77 goals-against average after going 11-4-0 with a 1.73 GAA and three shutouts in his previous 15.

Puck drop --
Every time the Avs have shown signs of fading, they've found another burst of energy and kept themselves safely in the top eight in the West. The Blues are on a roll, and playing the third game of a six-game trip won't bother them -- they're 18-9-4 away from the Scottrade Center.

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