Halak back in net for Blues in Colorado

BY foxsports • February 20, 2013

(AP) -- While the St. Louis Blues' struggles at home may have them ready to hit the road again, they haven't had much success when visiting the Colorado Avalanche in recent seasons.

Colorado seeks its seventh consecutive home victory over St. Louis, which will have Jaroslav Halak back in net Wednesday night.

The Avalanche (6-7-1) haven't gotten off to an ideal start as Ryan O'Reilly continues to sit out because of a contract dispute, though they used a little bit of luck to beat Nashville 6-5 on Monday.

Matt Duchene scored what proved to be the winning goal on a blown offsides call, helping end a three-game home losing streak. Colorado also had lost four of its previous five overall.

"We're not going to complain," Duchene said.

He and Aaron Palushaj finished with a goal and two assists as the Avalanche tied their season best for goals scored. They've allowed 11 over their past two games, though, after blowing a 4-1 lead in Saturday's 6-4 loss at Edmonton.

"We really needed the two points," Palushaj said. "We can clean up some things, especially defensively. Obviously allowing five goals is a little too much but scoring six also is a positive."

The increased offense has been welcomed for a Colorado team that has had trouble scoring for stretches.

"We're focusing on getting a lot of shots on net," said Jamie McGinn, who scored his third goal. "I think we were a little snake-bitten at the start of the year not scoring a lot of goals, but we have the firepower in here so it's nice when we're putting pucks in the net.

"We thought we gave one away in Edmonton, so we needed these two points just to stay in the hunt. We've been falling behind, so every point is important."

The Avs were outshot 44-19 in a 3-2 overtime loss to St. Louis, which got two goals and an assist from David Perron, in the most recent meeting Feb. 11, 2012, but they've outscored the Blues 27-15 while winning the last six matchups in Colorado.

St. Louis (9-6-1) fell 2-1 to San Jose on Tuesday, extending its home skid to five after it swept a three-game road trip. It has won six of eight on the road, though Wednesday will mark its only road contest before playing three straight at home.

Patrick Berglund, who has scored in a career-best four straight games, netted his team-best ninth goal.

The Blues were mainly shut down after they scored 13 goals during their winning streak, and coach Ken Hitchcock wasn't happy.

"Too many passengers. Too many people not pulling their weight," Hitchcock said. "Just too many guys want the game to be a little bit easier. We have to get people to change.

"We don't do it on the road, but we do it at home."

One bit of good news for St. Louis is the return of Halak, who sat out the last seven games with a groin injury. Halak, who is 3-0-0 with a 2.10 goals-against average and two shutouts, is 1-0-1 with a 1.44 GAA in his last two starts versus Colorado.

It's unclear who will start in net for the Avalanche, though Semyon Varlamov just 1-3-1 with a 3.77 GAA over his last five starts. Jean-Sebastien Giguere is on a personal leave of absence, and the team has called up Calvin Pickard to replace him.

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