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Avs host showdown with Penguins
(SportsNetwork.com) - Two of the top teams from opposing conference will meet Sunday in Denver, as the Colorado Avalanche host the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Pepsi Center.
With 103 points, the Penguins have clinched a playoff spot and the Metropolitan Division title. The club is locked into the East's second seed after Boston clinched the conference's top spot with a win on Saturday.
Colorado, meanwhile, has 106 points, leaving it five behind St. Louis for both the Central Division and Western Conference leads. The Avs also have clinched a postseason berth and are three points ahead of Chicago for second place in the division.
The Avalanche are coming off Saturday's impressive 4-0 victory in St. Louis, giving Colorado six straight wins for the third time this season.
A big second period and 31 saves from Semyon Varlamov helped Colorado blank the Blues for their 50th win of the season. Paul Stastny, Nathan MacKinnon and Nick Holden scored in a span of less than 10 minutes in the second period before the game turned chippy with a skirmish-filled third.
Varlamov earned his NHL-best 40th win to tie head coach Patrick Roy's single- season franchise record.
"I just felt that we dominated them," Roy said.
Stastny added two assists in Colorado's sixth straight win, a run that matches the club's season high. The Avs won six in a row twice earlier this season from Oct. 2-15 and again from Oct. 19-Nov. 2.
The Avalanche also reached 50 wins for the second time in club history. Only the Stanley Cup-winning 2000-01 squad registered more victories with 52.
Colorado boasts a 26-11-3 record at the Pepsi Center this season and is playing its final home test of the regular season on Sunday. The Avs will complete its schedule on a four-game road trip that begins Tuesday in Edmonton.
While Colorado will try to record its first seven-game winning streak since taking eight in a row from Dec. 31-Jan. 17 during the 2005-06 campaign, the Penguins are hoping to avoid losing for the sixth time in nine outings on Sunday.
Pittsburgh was blanked Saturday in Minnesota, as Ilya Bryzgalov stopped all 20 shots in a 4-0 shutout victory for the Wild.
Jeff Zatkoff made 16 saves for the Penguins, who lost for the second time in three games.
"We have to play the right way," Pens captain Sidney Crosby said. "We know what that is. We've done a good job of it. It's just a matter of making sure we find that urgency for the last bit."
The Penguins did play without several regulars, including Evgeni Malkin, who is still sidelined with a foot issue. In addition, forward Jussi Jokinen (upper body) and defenseman Olli Maatta (lower body) were on the sidelines. The Pens expect to play with a short-handed roster again on Sunday.
Pittsburgh fell to 22-15-3 as the road team after Saturday's loss and the club is completing a three-game swing on Sunday. The Pens will then close their regular-season schedule on a three-game homestand.
The Avs and Penguins met on Oct. 21 in Pittsburgh and Colorado notched a 1-0 victory behind a 34-save shutout from Jean-Sebastien Giguere. That win halted a four-game slide in the series for Colorado, and the Avs will try to snap a two-game home losing streak against Pittsburgh on Sunday.
04/06 11:58:19 ET