Avalanche-Blackhawks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 05, 2012
Extremely streaky on the road this season, the Colorado Avalanche are currently in the midst of a positive stretch away from home. Trying to extend their road winning streak to four Friday night, the surging Avalanche look for a second straight victory at the United Center against the Chicago Blackhawks, who hope to avoid matching a season high with a third consecutive defeat. Colorado (22-18-1) opened the season with six straight victories away from home but followed that run with nine consecutive road losses. The Avalanche ended that skid with a 4-2 win at Minnesota on Dec. 26, then beat Anaheim and Los Angeles to open their current four-game road stretch and improve to 9-8-1 away from the Pepsi Center. "We had a little lull there on the road, now we're back up there again," forward Chuck Kobasew told the Avalanche's official website. "We got a tough one ahead of us in Chicago. They are always tough, they've got a lot of firepower and need to find a way to get two points." Colorado has won two of its last three trips to Chicago, including 5-4 in a shootout Oct. 22 two days after it fell 3-1 at home to the Blackhawks (24-12-4). The Avalanche are 3-1-2 at the United Center since dropping three straight there. Rookie Gabriel Landeskog scored twice and Ryan O'Reilly added two assists at Chicago in October. O'Reilly tied the score and Milan Hejduk added the only goal in the shootout of Monday's 2-1 win over the Kings - Colorado's eighth in nine games overall. "You get a couple of wins together and you feel confident," said Kobasew, who has a goal and an assist in his last three games. The Avalanche are 7-0 in shootouts this season and have won 10 straight tiebreakers to move within one of the NHL record for consecutive shootout wins set by Dallas in 2005-06. Colorado has won 18 of its last 19 shootouts dating to 2009-10. Semyon Varlamov has been in net for all but one of Colorado's shootout victories this season. He made 31 saves at Los Angeles and stopped 34 at Chicago in October. The Central Division-leading Blackhawks look to bounce back after losing their second straight one-goal game, 5-4 at Philadelphia on Thursday. Brent Seabrook and Patrick Kane scored to help Chicago erase a two-goal deficit in the third period, but a Kane penalty led to James van Riemsdyk's winner with 32.7 seconds left to hand the Blackhawks their third loss in four games. Jonathan Toews added two assists, giving him four goals and three assists in eight games. The captain has six goals and nine assists in 15 career games versus Colorado. Ray Emery made 41 saves Thursday in his first start since Dec. 20, but Corey Crawford could be in net looking to bounce back from a 4-3 home loss to Edmonton on Monday. Crawford has stopped 51 of 56 shots while going 1-0-1 against the Avalanche this season.
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