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The Colorado Avalanche and Boston Bruins may be longshots to reach the playoffs, but right now both teams are playing like they want to make things interesting.
The Avalanche look to remain unbeaten on their season-long five-game road trip and win their fourth in a row overall as they pay a rare visit to Boston on Tuesday to face the surging Bruins.
The Bruins (32-28-5) won their second straight and improved to 10-4-1 in their last 15 games Sunday with a 4-1 win at New Jersey. Boston is in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, but only four points behind Carolina for the eighth and final playoff spot with three games in hand.
Colorado, meanwhile, has more points to make up in the West but fewer teams to leapfrog. The ninth-place Avalanche (32-29-5) trail Calgary and Minnesota by 10 points for the final two postseason berths.
On Sunday, Colorado improved to 2-0 on its trip and won its third consecutive game overall, defeating Detroit 4-3 on Brad Richardson's goal 2:41 into overtime. The right wing has only 10 goals, but four of those have come in the last eight games.
"I think over the last 5-10 games, he's playing his best hockey of the season," Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville said of Richardson, who also had a goal and an assist at Chicago on Thursday, when Colorado opened its trip with a 6-1 win. "He's got good speed ... He's useful on the wing and at center killing penalties.
"His production is a little bit of a bonus the way he can play. One of the reasons why he's got 10 (goals) is he has a real sneaky shot."
Paul Stastny has been even hotter. The 21-year-old center had two assists Sunday to extend his point streak to 15 games - tied for the third-longest by a rookie in NHL history. Jude Drouin of the Minnesota North Stars also had a 15-game point streak as a rookie in 1970-71.
If Stastny records a point against the Bruins, he will match his father Peter's franchise rookie record of 16 straight games with a point, set in the 1980-81 season when the Avs were the Quebec Nordiques.
The younger Stastny, who has eight goals and 14 assists during his run, is just two games shy of matching Teemu Selanne's NHL record 17-game point streak as a rookie, which he set in 1992-93 with the Winnipeg Jets.
This is the first visit to Boston for the Avs since a 3-2 Colorado overtime victory on Feb. 4, 2003, and the first meeting anywhere between these clubs since Dec. 7, 2005, when the Avalanche won 4-1 at home. Colorado has three wins and a tie in its last four trips to TD Banknorth Garden, where it has not lost since a 4-1 defeat March 30, 1998.
Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas received his first night off since Jan. 20 in Sunday's victory. Joey MacDonald, whom Boston acquired off waivers from Detroit on Feb. 24, stopped 26 of 27 shots in his eighth career start and first with his new team.
"Timmy has been playing unbelievable," MacDonald said. "I just have to come in and make sure the team has a chance to win."
Marco Sturm scored a short-handed goal for Boston to extend his point streak to six games. He has two goals and five assists during the run.