Avalanche face Stars, shoot for sixth straight win
STARS (22-18-11) at AVALANCHE (29-15-6)
Dallas 4-6-0; Colorado 7-3-0
Second of four meetings this season and the first of two this week, with Colorado visiting Dallas on Friday. The Avalanche won 4-1 at the Pepsi Center on Dec. 26. Chris Stewart scored a pair of third-period goals, including an empty-netter, and Peter Budaj stopped 39 shots.
With a five-game winning streak going, Colorado continues to prove it will be a challenger for the Northwest Division title until the end. On the flip side, Dallas is attempting to work its way back into the Western Conference's top eight, and the Stars won their first road game in regulation since mid-November when James Neal
scored with 22.2 seconds remaining in Edmonton on Friday night. They'll try to build off that in Denver.
It looked like Dallas was headed to overtime Friday after Edmonton's Sam Gagner scored off the skate of Mike Modano and past Marty Turco with 1:02 left in the third period. But Neal capitalized on a bad turnover by the Oilers at their own blue line and scored his 20th of the season to get the Stars two points without having to go past regulation -- they've lost a League-high 11 games this season in either overtime or the shootout.
"It's been a long time coming for our club on the road, winning games," said Turco, who stopped 35 shots. "There's a lot of games we had chances to win, I thought we played pretty good, but we always had lapses in all those losses that somehow cost us."
It seems as if any time Colorado hits a bit of a rough patch this season, the Avalanche bounce back stronger than ever. Their five straight wins are a season high, and it's a personal best for goalie Craig Anderson, who has allowed just seven goals in the streak. Once again it was the rookies leading the way Friday against Nashville, as Matt Duchene and Brandon Yip scored power-play goals to pace a 2-1 victory.
"It's great," Duchene said. "It's right where we want to be, especially with Vancouver playing well and creeping up on us. This was our game in hand, and it's huge to win it."
Neal has a three-game points streak for the Stars. The second-year forward eclipsed the 37 points he recorded as a rookie with his late goal Friday. Loui Eriksson
has three goals in his last four games, and Modano has three goals in his last five games.
Anderson, who had 36 wins in his NHL career prior to signing with the Avalanche, has 25 and counting this season. Duchene has taken over the rookie scoring lead, posting five goals and seven points in his last five games. Paul Stastny has a goal and five assists during a five-game points streak. John-Michael Liles has a goal and five assists during a four-game points streak. Wojtek Wolski has a goal and five assists in his last four games. Stewart has three goals and two assists in his last four games.
Dallas captain Brenden Morrow
and forward Tom Wandell
are day-to-day with upper-body injuries. Forwards Jere Lehtinen (upper body) and Mike Ribeiro
(tracheotomy) are on injured reserve.
Colorado forward Marek Svatos is day-to-day with a bruised chest. Defenseman Ryan Wilson is out indefinitely with a head injury. Defensemen Adam Foote (ankle) and Ruslan Salei (back) and forwards David Jones (torn ACL), Matt Hendricks (ankle) and Milan Hejduk (right knee) are on injured reserve.
Anderson made 32 saves in winning his only career start against Dallas, on March 29, 2009 for Florida. … The Stars have scored 13 goals in winning three of their last four games.
Colorado is aiming for its first six-game winning streak since Feb. 26-March 8, 2008. All the fresh faces on its roster didn't even experience last season's last-place finish in the West, and for the veterans it's becoming more and more of a distant memory.