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Less than two years removed from finishing with the league's worst record, the St. Louis Blues have undergone quite a transformation.
The surging Blues seek their fourth straight win against the Colorado Avalanche when the teams meet on Sunday night at Pepsi Center.
After reaching the playoffs in 25 straight seasons, the Blues (16-9-1) finished with a league-worst 57 points in 2005-06. The hiring of coach Andy Murray on Dec. 11, 2006 played a big role in helping St. Louis increase that total to 81 last season.
Signing Paul Kariya to a three-year, $18 million contract and bringing Keith Tkachuk back proved the Blues were serious about returning to the playoffs after a two-year absence. Although St. Louis only started 7-7-0, it has been one of the league's hottest teams lately, going 9-2-1.
Center Brad Boyes has been a key figure in that success. He ranks among the NHL leaders with 17 goals, including five in his last six games.
"We've been winning and we're doing well in the standings," Boyes said. "We have to keep going, keep rolling. You want to contribute and it's so tight, up two points one night, lose a couple spots in the standings the next night."
Doug Weight scored his first goal of the season and Boyes tallied twice as St. Louis held on for a 4-3 victory Friday at Edmonton.
"The puck went in and it was a great relief," Weight said. "And it was great to contribute to the win and not have to hear from everybody else trying to pump me up."
The Blues will have to overcome the temporary loss of starting goaltender Manny Legace, who was placed on injured reserve after tweaking his right knee in warmups Tuesday against Calgary.
With Legace sidelined, Hannu Toivonen will see most of the playing time in his absence with former first-round pick Marek Schwarz as his backup. Toivonen, who stopped 25 shots against Edmonton, is 5-3-0 with a 2.13 goals-against average this season.
Dan Hinote scored a pair of goals against his former team to lead the Blues to a 4-1 victory over the visiting Avalanche on Oct. 12. St. Louis has outscored Colorado 10-3 during a three-game win streak in the series.
The Avalanche continued their strong play at home Friday with a 2-1 victory over Philadelphia.
Jose Theodore stopped 28 shots and Milan Hejduk scored a power-play goal with 2.9 seconds left in the second period as Colorado (15-12-1) rebounded after failing to hold onto a third-period lead Wednesday en route to a 5-4 road loss to the Blue Jackets.
"This is a big win for us, especially how badly we played in Columbus where we were up 3-1 and lost the game," Hejduk said.
The Avs opened 6-0-0 at the Pepsi Center this season and are among the league leaders with 11 home wins.
"We have to place an emphasis on getting points everywhere, but we want to make sure what we set in place right off the bat is something that we can carry through all year long, and playing well at home is important," Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville said.
Theodore, who is expected to make his second consecutive start, is 0-4-0 with a 4.02 GAA lifetime against St. Louis.
Colorado will be without captain Joe Sakic for a fifth straight game due to a groin injury. Sakic is second on the Avs with 22 points.