Posted December 20, 2011 on AP on Fox
Some outstanding defense has allowed the Colorado Avalanche to finally start making the most of their home-ice advantage. The St. Louis Blues' defensive-minded approach is making them a force on the road. The Avalanche try to record their first seven-game home winning streak in eight seasons Wednesday night while the Blues go for their first seven-game road point streak in more than a decade. After giving up 36 goals during a 4-9-0 start at home, Colorado (16-17-1) has yielded just 11 during its six-game surge at the Pepsi Center. "We're defending our house pretty well," Jean-Sebastien Giguere said Monday after making 31 saves in a 3-2 shootout victory over Philadelphia. "... We're hard to play against in front of the net." So are the Blues (19-9-4), who have given up an average of 1.58 goals while going 13-2-4 since coach Ken Hitchcock took over for the fired Davis Payne on Nov. 6. While their offense powered Sunday's 6-4 home win over Columbus, the Blues have surrendered just nine regulation goals while posting a 3-0-3 record in their last six on the road. The last time St. Louis recorded at least one point in seven straight away from home within a single season was during a franchise-record 10-0-0 run Jan. 21-March 2, 2000. The Blues, though, have been outscored 24-13 during a five-game skid in Denver, including a 3-2 shootout loss Dec. 2. Colorado, which snapped St. Louis' four-game overall winning streak in that contest, last won seven in a row in Denver in one season Jan. 23-Feb. 25, 2003. If Giguere makes his third consecutive start, he'd face the Blues for the first time since Feb. 12, 2010, a 4-0 loss while with Toronto. He's still 9-2-2 with a 2.49 goals-against average in his last 13 starts versus St. Louis. Semyon Varlamov turned aside 35 shots in the teams' first matchup this season to improve to 3-0-0 with a 1.62 GAA in three starts against the Blues, although he's allowed 18 goals in his last four outings overall. Whoever is between the pipes will face a St. Louis team coming off its best offensive performance of the season. "We had to score six goals to do it and we're not going to be able to do that every time out," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said after netting one of the Blues' season-high four third-period goals. "But it's good to know we can do it if we have to." St. Louis is among the worst in the NHL in averaging 2.07 goals on the road. The club has scored just 12 goals during its road point streak, but goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott have been steady in that stretch. Halak, who stopped 33 shots Dec. 2 in Denver, is 5-1-4 with a 1.75 GAA in his last 10 starts after opening 1-6-0 with a 3.35 GAA, while Elliott continues to lead the NHL with a 1.43 GAA. Avs defenseman Erik Johnson was sidelined with a groin injury for the Blues' last visit, but he'll try to match a career high Wednesday by scoring a point in five straight games. He last accomplished that Nov. 19-27, 2009, while with St. Louis.
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