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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Thursday, March 1st (All times eastern)

Colorado Avalanche (30-29-5) at Chicago Blackhawks (23-31-9), 8:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Colorado Avalanche start up a crucial five-game road trip this evening at the United Center against a Chicago Blackhawks squad that's hoping to end a recent slide.

Colorado begins this trek in 10th place in the Western Conference standings and 11 points behind the Minnesota Wild, the team that is holding down the conference's eighth and final playoff spot. For the franchise to advance to the postseason for a 12th consecutive season, the Avalanche need a strong performance on the road, where the club is just 12-15-2 on the season.

The Avs come in on a good note, however, as they halted a three-game losing spurt with Tuesday's 3-2 home win over Columbus.

Peter Stastny extended his point streak to 13 straight games with his 22nd goal of the season. The rookie standout has 19 points (8 goals, 11 assists) during the tear, which is the longest active streak in the NHL.

Teammate Andrew Brunette has notched a point in 11 consecutive contests after scoring the game's first goal. The veteran forward has five goals and 12 assists during his run.

Milan Hedjuk finished with a pair of assists for Colorado, which nearly received a shutout from Peter Budaj. The Slovakian netminder, who ended with 23 saves, allowed two goals in the final 1:56 of action.

Chicago fell for the sixth time in its last seven outings after Tuesday's 4-1 setback to Detroit at the United Center. Jeff Hamilton had the only goal for the Blackhawks, who played without leading scorer Martin Havlat.

Havlat sat out the contest with the flu but is expected to be available tonight.

Chicago traded its second-leading point-getter, center Bryan Smolinski, to Vancouver on Monday for a second-round pick in the 2007 draft.

The Blackhawks will wrap up a four-game homestand tonight and bring a 12-15-4 record at the United Center into this evening's tilt.

Chicago has won two of its three earlier meetings with Colorado this season, including a 2-1 triumph in the Windy City back in December. The Avalanche have emerged victorious in five of their last seven trips to Chicago, however.

03/01 10:33:37 ET

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