Thrashers-Avalanche Preview

BY foxsports • November 29, 2010

A Stanley Cup champion and a hot goaltender have the Atlanta Thrashers on the verge of tying the longest winning streak in franchise history.

Dustin Byfuglien and Ondrej Pavelec have led the Thrashers to five consecutive victories, and Atlanta will look to match the team record when it faces the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on Tuesday night.

Byfuglien leads all defensemen with nine goals, four of which have come during the win streak. He had a goal and three assists as the Thrashers defeated Boston 3-1 on Sunday, giving him nine points during the run and making him the league's defensive scoring leader with 25 points.

"It means the team's doing something right," said Byfuglien, in his first season with Atlanta (12-9-3) after being acquired from Stanley Cup champion Chicago. "Everyone's buying in. We're back-checking hard."

The Thrashers' goalie has been nearly as hot as Byfuglien. Pavelec made 40 saves - 16 in the second period - against the Bruins and has stopped 201 of 207 shots during the winning streak.

Pavelec, whose 1.62 goals-against average and .949 save percentage are both third in the league, is likely to be back in net Tuesday after making 12 straight appearances - 10 starts. That should give Atlanta a good chance to match the team mark of six straight wins, set from March 6-16, 2009.

Pavelec, who has never faced the Avalanche, would be trying to help the Thrashers avoid a third straight road defeat. He replaced Chris Mason in the last two road losses after Mason gave up four goals both times.

Pavelec allowed one goal in each of those games, which Atlanta lost to Ottawa and Washington by a combined 11-6 on Nov. 9 and 14, respectively.

Atlanta is coming off a 5-1 homestand but now opens a difficult three-game trip. First up is Colorado, winner of four straight at home, followed by matchups with Pittsburgh and Washington.

The Avalanche (13-9-1) avoided a third straight loss with a 7-4 victory over Minnesota on Saturday. The win was bittersweet for the Avs, who got two goals from newcomer Greg Mauldin but lost star winger Chris Stewart to a broken left hand suffered in a second-period fight.

Mauldin, recalled from the AHL on Nov. 11, scored twice in a four-goal second-period burst for Colorado, which had its biggest offensive output of the season.

The indefinite absence of Stewart, who has a team-best 11 goals along with 14 assists, made the outcome less enjoyable.

"Of course, you wish it didn't happen," coach Joe Sacco said. "You never want to lose any player. And Chris is a big part of this team. But we'll deal with injuries as they come. Somebody else will have to step up."

That could be Mauldin, who also had two assists in the club's best individual offensive performance of the season.

Colorado also lost defenseman John-Michael Liles and center Daniel Winnik to minor injuries. Their status for this game is uncertain.

The Avalanche won the last matchup with the visiting Thrashers 4-3 on Feb. 10 - the teams' only meeting last season - to avert a third consecutive loss in the series. Colorado's four wins in a row in Denver have come by a combined 22-11.

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