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New-look Avs aim to halt Thrashers' winning streak

by Brian Hunter /
THRASHERS (12-9-3) at AVALANCHE (13-9-1)


Last 10:
Atlanta 6-4-0; Colorado 6-4-0

Season series: First of two meetings this season -- once the Thrashers get done with this three-game road trip they will return to Philips Arena for a pair of games, the second of which will be against the Avalanche on Dec. 10. In the most recent matchup, Kyle Cumiskey needed just nine seconds of overtime to record the game-winning goal for Colorado in a 4-3 win at Pepsi Center on Feb. 10.

Big story: Atlanta is surging and will see if it can continue its recent run of good fortune on the road. The Thrashers' stop in Colorado will be followed by games in Pittsburgh and Washington, so this will be a steep test. But if Ondrej Pavelec continues even close to the way he's been playing, they will find themselves in every game. Pavelec has allowed three goals in his last five starts, with two shutouts, and hasn't allowed more than two goals in his last seven starts.

"More important is winning the games," Pavelec told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "It's nice but it's a team sport and you can't do that without your teammates."

Team Scope:

Thrashers: Pavelec is once again the talk of the NHL, but this time it's for his goaltending rather than the scary incident on opening night when he fainted on the ice and suffered a concussion that kept him out several weeks. He gradually rounded into form, going 1-4-2 in his first seven decisions due mostly to a lack of offensive support, but is currently at the very top of his game. On Sunday he turned aside 40 shots as Atlanta cruised to a 4-1 win over Boston. Dustin Byfuglien tied his career high with four points. To no one's great surprise, Pavelec and Byfuglien were the League's first and second stars of the past week.

"They certainly earned it," coach Craig Ramsay told the Journal Constitution. "I think they've both been brilliant. Our team has played well. Even through that when the team plays well, someone needs to step up and be a special player and they've both done it throughout this homestand."

Avalanche: A roster that has been ever-changing this season due mostly to injuries has been shaken up a little more via the trades of defensemen Scott Hannan and Colby Cohen. Colorado sent Hannan to Washington on Tuesday in exchange for forward Tomas Fleischmann, while Cohen was dealt to Boston on Monday for blueliner Matt Hunwick, who is expected to be in the lineup against Atlanta. The Avalanche are coming off a 7-4 win over the Wild on Saturday that was marred by the loss of leading goal-scorer Chris Stewart to a broken hand that will cost him 4-6 weeks.

"You guys have heard me say this before: Change brings opportunity, so somebody else will have to step up in his place and get an opportunity to show the staff and show the organization what they can do," coach Joe Sacco told the Denver Post.

"We've been very good at that. We've been very resilient when we've had injuries. This organization's got a lot of depth, and that certainly helps us in situations like that."

Who's hot: In addition to Pavelec and Byfuglien's heroics, defenseman Tobias Enstrom has 1 goal and 4 assists during a four-game points streak for the Thrashers. … Rookie defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk has 4 goals and 5 assists during a six-game points streak for the Avalanche. Milan Hejduk has taken over the team scoring lead with 26 points. He has 3 goals and 3 assists during a four-game points streak. Matt Duchene has goals in three-straight games.

Injury report: Atlanta forward Freddy Modin is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. … Stewart joins a list of walking wounded for Colorado which includes Cumiskey and fellow defenseman Kyle Quincey, both of whom are out with concussions, and forwards Peter Mueller (concussion), TJ Galiardi (wrist) and David Van Der Gulik (knee). Forward David Koci (jaw) and defenseman Adam Foote (knee/leg) are day-to-day. Forward Daniel Winnik (knee/thigh) is expected to play Tuesday after taking only two shifts against Minnesota.

Stat pack: Byfuglien's current five-game points streak, in which he's registered 4 goals and 5 assists for the Thrashers, is a new career high. … Hunwick has 13 goals and 45 points in 164 career games for the Bruins. Fleischmann has 60 goals and 138 points in 283 career games for the Capitals.

Puck drop:
Greg Mauldin, one player getting an opportunity due to Colorado's litany of injuries, scored shorthanded against Columbus in his season debut Nov. 12 for his first NHL goal. He had an even bigger impact in Minnesota, recording 2 goals and 2 assists. With Stewart out, it doesn't appear Mauldin will be coming out of the lineup anytime soon.

"I can't even say how I feel," Mauldin told the Denver Post. "It's something you dream about when you're playing road hockey with your buddies, to have a night like that."

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