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BLUE JACKETS (6-3-0) AT AVALANCHE (5-4-1)
TV -- ALT2 (HD), FS-O (HD)
Season Series -- This is the first of four games between the two Western Conference clubs. Last season Colorado won all four contests in the season series, two of which were decided by a one goal differential.
Big Story -- Craig Anderson played a key role in three of Colorado’s four wins last year, but is out indefinitely with a knee injury sustained last Tuesday. Meanwhile, the red-hot Blue Jackets are coming off a three-game winning streak with a huge shootout win over the Oilers on Thursday.
Blue Jackets -- Columbus is on a roll, winning three straight and five of its past six contests.
This recent success has not been entirely contingent on All-Star center Rick Nash, who has just 4 points so far this season. However, other players are stepping up offensively and defensively to catch opposing teams by surprise. In fact, center Derick Brassard has 3 points in three games and Chris Clark boasts a team best 6 points -- all assists -- in seven games.
Goaltender Steve Mason explains the recent success as a total team effort.
"The guys are really bearing down and sticking to what their individual jobs are," Mason said. "It's paying off when you have guys competing hard the whole game. It really puts some pressure on the other team and they make mistakes. And we just have to capitalize on them."
Avalanche -- Despite the loss of its starting netminder, Colorado stepped up Thursday night in a tight 5-4 win over the Calgary Flames. The young squad seems to surprise opponents with its scoring ability and skating finesse -- though it helps to have young guns like Chris Stewart to get things done offensively.
While Anderson rehabs his knee, the Avs will look to Peter Budaj to fill the role between the pipes.
"It seems like I'm going to play more games than usual, but I'm excited," Budaj said. "It's a big test for me … I've been in the league awhile and I've played many games before and I know what I have to do, I know my body, and how to get ready. It's going to be a little bit different from last season, but I'm excited and it's a challenge, an opportunity to show what I can do."
Who's Hot -- Stewart tallied a hat trick on Thursday and leads the Avalanche in goals (8) and points (14), with 7 goals and 5 assists during a seven-game points streak. Milan Hejduk has 3 goals and 6 assists in a five-game points streak.
Netminder Steve Mason backstopped Columbus to its past two victories with a 1.97 goals-against average and earned first star of the game honors by turning aside 25 shots in the Blue Jackets' 3-2 shootout victory over the Oilers on Thursday. Mason has three wins in his past four starts.
Injury Report -- Columbus D Jan Hejda missed the last game because of a strained calf muscle. Columbus forward Ethan Moreau, is out 4-6 weeks following recent hand surgery. LW Kristian Huselius and D-man Kris Russell are day-to-day with lower-body injuries. Forward Andrew Murray (knee) and defenseman Mike Commodore (hand) are on injured reserve.
Anderson is out indefinitely (knee) but will not require surgery. Anderson’s agent, Justin Duberman, told the Denver Post, "He's going to be fine. It's nothing serious.” Defenseman Adam Foote is listed as day to day with concussion like symptoms. Forwards David Koci (broken jaw) and Peter Mueller (concussion) are on injured reserve.
Stat Pack -- Colorado is currently ranked dead last in the league in goals-against average at 3.80 while Columbus has the third-worst goals per game average in the league at 2.44.
Puck Drop -- Colorado looks to avoid a third straight home loss, while Columbus attempts to equal a team-record four-game road winning streak set in Dec. 2006.
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