GAME: Colorado Avalanche (30-11-10-4) at St. Louis Blues (26-21-7-1).
TIME: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
The Colorado Avalanche appeared to be without a single reliable goaltender going into the season. Now it appears they have two.
Following backup Phil Sauve's outstanding performance in helping Colorado earn a tie, the Avs take on the struggling St. Louis Blues at the Savvis Center.
The offseason retirement of Patrick Roy seemed to leave a gaping hole in net for the Avalanche, who were repeatedly questioned for going into 2003-04 with David Aebischer and Sauve - a goalie duo mostly untested at the NHL level.
However, the intensive search for a veteran goaltender, predicted by many observers, never had to take place. Aebischer, 26, has been perhaps the Avalanche's most consistent player this season, with 23 wins, three shutouts and a 2.08 goals-against average.
While Aebischer showed flashes of potential in 69 games as Roy's backup the previous three seasons, the 23-year-old Sauve made his NHL debut in October. After a shaky start, he has started to gain confidence, and his 35-save effort Tuesday night in a 1-1 draw with the New York Islanders was his best performance of the season.
Sauve was the most valuable player of the YoungStars game during NHL All-Star weekend, and that effort carried over to Tuesday. He made several outstanding saves in overtime, when the Avs were outshot 5-1.
"I felt good out there," Sauve said. "It's fun to get in some good action like that."
Despite its strong goaltending, Colorado has slumped somewhat lately, going 1-0-1-2 since a five-game unbeaten streak (4-0-1). The Avs, locked in a tight battle with Vancouver for first place in the Northwest Division, haven't won consecutive games since Jan. 24 and 27.
While the Avalanche are in a minor slump, the Blues have been in a freefall. St. Louis dropped to 1-8-1 in its last 10 with a 3-1 loss at Ottawa on Tuesday night.
Blues goalie Chris Osgood was pulled late in the first period after stopping just eight of the first 11 shots he faced. Replaced by Reinhard Divis for the final 3:05 of the first, Osgood returned for the second and stopped the final 20 shots to complete the game.
"I think we wanted to settle our team down and I liked how he responded in the last couple of periods," Blues coach Joel Quenneville said. "He settled himself down and we were a little better in front of him - not much, but his game was better the last couple of periods."
Mike Danton scored 9:21 into the third period for St. Louis.
Defenseman Eric Weinrich, acquired from Philadelphia on Monday, is expected to make his debut for the Blues on Thursday as they open a four-game homestand.