Blue Jackets-Avalanche Preview

With a road-heavy portion of the schedule behind them, the

Colorado Avalanche will try to build some momentum at the Pepsi


The Columbus Blue Jackets want to keep theirs going on the


The Avalanche open a four-game homestand looking to prevent the

surging Blue Jackets from matching the longest road winning streak

in franchise history Saturday night.

Tied with Los Angeles and Anaheim with a league-high seven road

games, Colorado (5-4-1) will play seven of its next nine at home

following Thursday’s 6-5 victory at Calgary.

Sparked by Chris Stewart’s second career hat trick and Daniel

Winnik’s game-winner with 2:20 left, Colorado snapped a three-game

skid. Eleven Avalanche players recorded at least one point.

“It was a total team effort,” said Stewart, who has seven goals

and five assists during a seven-game point streak. “It’s great to

see that we’re getting scoring from (all) lines. It’s just exciting

to watch out there.”

The third-year forward leads the club with 14 points and eight

goals – twice as many as any teammate. Stewart, who scored three

times in last season’s four-game season sweep of Columbus, already

has as many power-play goals (three) as he did in 2009-10.

With the offense being carried by Stewart and Milan Hejduk, who

has three goals and six assists during a five-game point streak,

the Avalanche are hoping former No. 1 goalie Peter Budaj can

solidify a defense that’s yielded 19 goals in four games. Budaj has

allowed 13 in three starts this season, but he’ll likely make his

first home start Saturday because top goaltender Craig Anderson is

out indefinitely after suffering a freak knee injury during warmups


Budaj, 1-3-0 with a 4.02 GAA in his last four starts versus

Columbus, will be backed up by Denver native John Grahame following

his call-up from the AHL on Thursday.

While the Avalanche try to avoid a third straight home loss, the

Blue Jackets (6-3-0) look to equal a team-record four-game road

winning streak set Dec. 2-12, 2006.

Columbus, 5-1-0 in one-goal games, has outscored opponents 5-1

in the third period and overtime of its three road contests. Boston

and Nashville are the only other teams yet to lose on the road.

The Blue Jackets have won three straight and five of six

overall, including a 3-2 shootout victory over visiting Edmonton on

Thursday as Rick Nash and Nikita Filatov scored in the


Columbus, which hasn’t won four in a row since Feb. 7-14, 2009,

had lost its previous eight shootouts.

“It’s paying off when you have guys competing hard the whole

game,” said goalie Steve Mason, 2-0-0 with a 1.97 GAA in two road

starts. “It really puts some pressure on the other team and they

make mistakes. And we just have to capitalize on them.”

One area in which the Blue Jackets have yet to capitalize is the

power play. They’re among the worst in the league with the man

advantage, going 4 for 41.

Colorado’s penalty kill, though, is one of the NHL’s worst at

74.4 percent. The Avalanche have given up six power-play goals in

the last four games.