Blues visit Avs for Central Division showdown

2:35 PM, Mar 8, 2014   |    comments
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( - The Colorado Avalanche will try to thin the gap between themselves and the Central Division-leading St. Louis Blues as the rivals battle on Saturday afternoon at Pepsi Center.

The Avalanche come in having won four straight games and are in position to post their longest winning streak since taking six in a row for the second time this season from Oct. 19-Nov. 2.

Colorado's current run has tightened the positioning for the top three spots in the Central Division. The Blues lead with 90 points, two ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks and three up on the Avs.

The Blackhawks are not in action today.

The top three teams of each division received automatic bids into the playoffs and the Avalanche are currently 12 points ahead of the fourth-place Minnesota Wild in the Central.

Colorado extended its winning streak with a 3-2 overtime victory on Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings. Andre Benoit scored the winner with 31.4 seconds left in the bonus frame, one-timing a pass from Nathan MacKinnon home from the right side of the net.

Matt Duchene and P.A. Parenteau also scored and Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 35 saves as the Avalanche spoiled the Red Wings' retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom's No. 5 jersey.

"I think (the Red Wings) wanted to win this game for Lidstrom and I thought they did a lot of good things out there," Colorado head coach Patrick Roy said. "We found a way to win this hockey game."

The rookie MacKinnon stole the show a bit by extending his point streak to 13 straight games. That broke Wayne Gretzky's record for an 18-year-old set from Dec. 9-Jan. 5 during the 1979-80 season. MacKinnon has five goals and 13 assists over his streak.

Colorado will open a four-game homestand today and is likely to go back to starter Semyon Varlamov in net. He is 4-3-1 with a 2.17 goals against average in his career versus the Blues.

St. Louis has been a force against its division this season, going 16-0-1 versus the Central. That includes a pair of victories in the first two of four meetings with Colorado this season.

The Blues recorded a 4-1 victory in Colorado on Nov. 27, snapping an eight- game slide (0-6-2) as the visiting team in this series.

St. Louis is coming off a divisional victory on Thursday, topping the Nashville Predators 2-1. Ryan Miller made 20 saves to remain unbeaten in three games since being acquired from the Buffalo Sabres last Friday. He has a 1.67 GAA and .921 save percentage in the three wins.

"Every night, these guys track hard," Miller said. "They know where to be. They make the game easy to read."

Steve Ott, also acquired in the trade with the Sabres, had an assist for his first point with the Blues, while Magnus Paajarvi and Ian Cole had the goals.

St. Louis is scheduled to visit the Minnesota Wild on Sunday, so its possible both Miller and backup Brian Elliott will get starts this weekend.

Elliott may be the better choice for today as Miller is 0-3-3 with a 3.59 GAA in his career versus the Avalanche. Elliott is 3-2-1 with a 2.81 GAA against them.

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