Penguins-Avalanche Preview

The bookends of the Colorado Avalanche’s season are turning out to be quite impressive.

The surging Avalanche close out their home schedule Sunday night versus the Pittsburgh Penguins seeking a seventh straight win to stay in the Central Division title hunt.

After Saturday’s 4-0 win at St. Louis, Colorado (50-21-6) reached 50 wins for just the second time in franchise history and going after its longest winning streak since reeling off eight in a row from Dec. 31, 2005-Jan. 17, 2006.

The Avalanche, who opened the season with six consecutive wins en route to a 12-1-0 start, trail the Blues by five points for the top spot in the division and Western Conference with five games remaining, and coach Patrick Roy is pleased all around with his team’s play.

"Our power play was sharp, penalty kill was rock solid, goaltending was phenomenal again," Roy said. "I just felt like we dominated them."

Goaltending was the most noteworthy of the list as Semyon Varlamov joined Roy as the only netminders to win 40 games in a season in franchise history. Roy established the mark in 2000-01, backstopping the Avalanche to the Stanley Cup.

"I’m very happy," Roy told the team’s official website. "Like I said before, records are there to be broken. I’m just happy to be apart of it. Varly has been our best player, he has been phenomenal for us from the get go."

Varlamov – 40-14-5 after making 31 saves for his second shutout – has been in goal for the entire current winning streak, posting a 1.92 goals-against average and .940 save percentage.

He’ll start for the third time in four days in his first shot at sole possession of the record. Varlamov hasn’t faced the Penguins since 2011-12 and is 2-1-0 with a 3.33 GAA in three career starts.

Playing without forwards Matt Duchene (knee), P.A. Parenteau (knee) and now Cody McLeod (ankle), the Avalanche are still finding ways to be consistent in the offensive zone. Against the Blues, Paul Stastny had a goal and two assists to extend his point streak to a season-best six games with two goals and seven assists. Gabriel Landeskog added an assist and has eight points in six games.

The Penguins (49-24-5) has clinched the Metropolitan Division and is locked into the No. 2 spot in the East. They played like a team with nothing on the line Saturday in a 4-0 loss at Minnesota, spotting the Wild three goals in the first 15 minutes.

"We didn’t play well," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby told the team’s official website. "That being said, there were some bounces early on and we seemed to get some chances to get within a couple and didn’t score. We didn’t get a lot of momentum after that. We had some chances to score in the second and didn’t and the third period was pretty passive by both teams."

No. 2 goaltender Jeff Zatkoff made 16 saves while spelling Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins’ starter is 2-0-0 with a 1.68 GAA and .946 save percentage in three career games at the Pepsi Center.

Pittsburgh completes a three-game road trip in Colorado before returning home for its last three.

The Avalanche beat the Penguins 1-0 in Pittsburgh on Oct. 21 on a goal by Landeskog to snap a four-game losing streak in the series.