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Colorado Avalanche vs. Columbus Blue Jackets @NHLdotcom
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GAME: Colorado Avalanche (33-15-11-4) at Columbus Blue Jackets (18-34-8-4).

TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Colorado Avalanche are facing the Columbus Blue Jackets at just the right time.

In the midst of one of their worst slumps of the season, the Avalanche look to remain unbeaten in 15 all-time meetings with the Blue Jackets when the teams meet at Nationwide Arena.

Including two victories this season, the Avalanche are 13-0-1 all-time in the series, scoring at least five goals eight times. The Avs topped the Blue Jackets 5-1 on Dec. 6, followed by a 6-0 rout on Jan. 6.

Colorado has gone 1-4-1 in its last seven games, scoring more than two goals in just once over the stretch. On Thursday, the Avalanche skated to a 2-2 tie with the St. Louis Blues, playing their fifth straight game without center Peter Forsberg, who is out with a groin injury.

"You always want two points," Avs coach Tony Granato said. "But I did see some good things. It was the start of the way we have to play the last 20 games. We are down the stretch now, and we have to start playing as if the playoffs are right around the corner."

The Avalanche have a two-point lead over Vancouver for first place in the Northwest Division.

Columbus ended a five-game losing streak with a 4-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. Luke Richardson scored his first goal in nearly two years as the Blue Jackets rallied from a 3-1 deficit to end an 11-game road winless streak (0-8-3).

Richardson's first goal in 183 games came on a wrist shot from 50 feet out through traffic that beat Chicago goalie Michael Leighton on the glove side. Richardson last scored on Dec. 8, 2001, while with Philadelphia.

"I thought the guys battled back," Columbus coach Gerard Gallant said. "To win when we were trailing 3-2 going into the third period was great for our team."

STANDINGS: Avalanche - 81 points, 1st place, Northwest Division. Blue Jackets - 48 points, 5th place, 35 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Avalanche - Milan Hejduk, 29 goals; Alex Tanguay, 46 assists and 67 points; Jim Cummins, 136 PIM. Blue Jackets - Rick Nash, 33 goals and 47 points; David Vyborny, 24 assists; Jody Shelley, 171 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Feb. 26): Avalanche - Power play: 21.7 percent (59 for 272), 3rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.9 percent (236 for 278), 8th. Blue Jackets - Power play: 13.9 percent (44 for 317), 26th. Penalty killing: 83.4 percent (211 for253), 21st.

GOALTENDERS: Avalanche - David Aebischer (26-14-8, 4 SO, 2.03 GAA); Phil Sauve (7-5-3, 0, 2.64). Blue Jackets - Marc Denis (15-27-7, 3, 2.53); Fred Brathwaite (3-9-1, 0, 3.38).

SEASON SERIES: Avalanche, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 6; Avalanche, 6-0. At Colorado, Paul Kariya returned from a two-month absence due to a sprained wrist, scoring a second-period goal. Aebischer made 35 saves for his ninth career shutout.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Avalanche - 17-4-7-3 on the road; Blue Jackets - 14-13-4-2 at home.

Associated Press
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