GAME: Colorado Avalanche (32-13-10-4) at Dallas Stars (28-22-10-0).
TIME: Friday, 8:30 p.m. EST.
The first-place Colorado Avalanche look to complete a season sweep of the Dallas Stars and avoid a third straight loss in a matchup of Western Conference powers.
The Avalanche are tied with Detroit for the most points in the Western Conference, but they've suffered two straight troubling losses. Colorado lost 1-0 to Vancouver at home Monday, and fell 5-1 to Edmonton on Wednesday night, also at home.
The loss to the Canucks allowed second-place Vancouver to cut into Colorado's Northwest Division lead, and the stunning rout at the hands of the sub-.500 Oilers illustrated the Avalanche's season-long problems at the Pepsi Center.
"That was our worst game of the season," Colorado coach Tony Granato said Wednesday after his team fell to 16-10-3-1 in Denver. "The bounces weren't going our way and we weren't doing anything to create any bounces."
Avalanche captain Joe Sakic, who has spent his entire 16-year career with the Quebec-Colorado franchise, thought Granato didn't go far enough in his criticism.
"That's probably the worst game since we've been here - we were flat," Sakic said, referring to the nine seasons the Avalanche have played in Denver. "We were just terrible. No excuse for it, it was just embarrassing."
Avs backup goalie Phil Sauve suffered his first loss in nine games, stopping 15 of 18 shots before being replaced by David Aebischer for the final 5:32 of the second period. Sauve returned for the third.
Colorado wasn't much better offensively, managing just 15 shots on goal. Brett Clark scored with 30 seconds left to break up the shutout bid of Edmonton's Tommy Salo.
Plus, star center Peter Forsberg was a late scratch for the Avs because of a strained hip. His status for Friday's game is uncertain.
Winless in their last four at home (0-2-1-1), Colorado should be glad to hit the road to face the Stars, whom they've outscored 11-3 in winning the first three meetings of the season. The Avs have not swept a season series from the Stars since taking the only two matchups between the teams in 1993-94.
Colorado hasn't lost in regulation in its last 15 road games (9-0-4-2).
Dallas broke a two-game losing streak with a 4-3 victory over Los Angeles on Wednesday night. The victory moved the Stars one point ahead of the Kings for second place in the Pacific Division and sixth place in the West.
Dan Ellis made 25 saves in NHL debut, and Mike Modano scored twice for his first multigoal game of the season to lift the Stars.
Ellis gave a breather to Marty Turco, who saw his streak of 31 consecutive starts end. Turco, the NHL leader with 3,384 minutes played, is likely to return to net Friday.
Dallas' victory completed a three-game road trip. The Stars open a season-high eight-game homestand Friday.
"It was a good way to finish, a good note," Modano said. "We have three weeks at home which is very rare these days."
STANDINGS (through Feb. 18): Avalanche - 78 points, 1st place, Northwest Division. Stars - 66 points, 2nd place, 6 PB, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Avalanche - Milan Hejduk, 26 goals; Alex Tanguay, 45 assists and 66 points; Jim Cummins, 126 PIM. Stars - Bill Guerin, 24 goals and 43 points; Sergei Zubov, 28 assists; Steve Ott, 121 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Feb. 18): Avalanche - Power play: 22.4 percent (58 for 259), 3rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.2 percent (224 for 263), 8th. Stars - Power play: 16.3 percent (39 for 240), 13th. Penalty killing: 84.8 percent (195 for 230), 13th.
GOALTENDERS: Avalanche - Aebischer (25-12-7, 4 SO, 2.02 GAA); Sauve (7-5-3, 2.64). Stars - Turco (26-19-10, 5, 2.11); Ellis (1-0-0, 3.00).
SEASON SERIES: Avalanche, 3-0.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 15; Avalanche, 4-1. At Denver, Forsberg scored twice and Aebischer stopped 29 shots to lead Colorado to its fourth straight win.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Avalanche - 16-3-7-3 on the road; Stars - 16-6-6-0 at home.