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Blue Jackets-Avalanche Preview

Saturday, 10.13.2007 / 5:00 PM

Associated Press

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Blue Jackets-Avalanche Preview
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Colorado Avalanche

Goaltender Pascal Leclaire's brilliance has helped the Columbus Blue Jackets get off to a surprising start. Neither Leclaire nor the Blue Jackets have had much success against the Colorado Avalanche, though.

Leclaire tries to beat the Avalanche for the first time in his career and help lead Columbus to a rare win in Colorado when the teams meet at the Pepsi Center on Saturday night.

Leclaire was injured most of last season while his replacement, Fredrik Norrena, posted the first winning record for a Blue Jackets (2-1-0) goaltender in the franchise's seven-year history. Norrena had been considered the favorite to claim the starting job again this season, but Leclaire has been outstanding between the pipes.

He picked up his second shutout in as many starts in Columbus' 3-0 win over Phoenix on Wednesday, and is expected to get the call again Saturday.

"He's playing well - really well," Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said of Leclaire. "He's seeing the puck, he's stopping the puck, he's competitive and there are a lot of guys playing hard in front of him, so that's a good sign too."

Columbus is the league's only team that has not allowed a power-play goal, stopping all 17 of its opponents' opportunities with the man advantage.

The Blue Jackets, who also won two of their first three games last season, have not opened with three wins in their first four games since 2003-04 - the franchise's best start.

"We realize how important these points are at the start of a season," said Jason Chimera, who had a goal and two assists against the Coyotes. "We usually play well in the second half of the season (but) guys are coming out and jumping."

Leclaire has stopped all 60 shots he's faced this season, becoming the first goalie since Florida's Roberto Luongo in 2005-06 to open a season with back-to-back shutouts.

While Leclaire has been outstanding this year, he is 0-3-1 with a 3.43 goals-against average lifetime against Colorado. He allowed five goals in his only start against the Avalanche last season, a 5-3 loss on Nov. 1.

As a team, Columbus has not been much better versus Colorado.

The Avalanche are a remarkable 21-1-1 with one tie all-time against the Blue Jackets, and have won 11 of 12 meetings at the Pepsi Center.

Columbus' lone win at Colorado came last Dec. 5, though, as the Blue Jackets won 3-0. The Avalanche won their other three games against Columbus last season.

Colorado (2-2-0) lost to St. Louis 4-1 on Friday, as it allowed three goals in the third period.

The Avalanche have been outscored 8-1 in their two losses - both on the road - but have outscored their opponents 10-5 in two wins at home. They have not opened a season with three straight wins at home since winning their first four in Denver in 2000-01.

Paul Stastny scored his fifth goal of the season on Friday to go with his four assists in 2007-08. Last season, Stastny had 28 goals and 50 assists to finish as runner-up to Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin for rookie of the year.

Colorado starting goalie Peter Budaj, who did not play Friday, is 2-1-0 with a 3.29 GAA this season. He was 2-1-0 with a 1.67 GAA and a shutout against the Blue Jackets in 2006-07, and is 3-1-0 with a 1.50 GAA lifetime against them.

2007-2008 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Jan 20 '08CBJ 1 at COL 3B. Guite
Dec 12 '07COL 1 at CBJ 4J. Boll
Dec 05 '07COL 4 at CBJ 5D. Fritsche
Oct 13 '07CBJ 1 at COL 5M. Hejduk
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GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
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GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
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