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The Colorado Avalanche opened its four-game road trip with an impressive victory, only to follow it up with a disappointing loss. A matchup with the lowly Tampa Bay Lightning could be enough to help get the team back on track.
Colorado looks to win its fourth straight over the Lightning on Thursday at St. Pete Times Forum.
After opening its trip with a 3-2 win over defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit on Monday, Colorado (15-15-1) lost to Philadelphia 5-2 on Tuesday. The Avalanche, which had won three of its previous four games, outshot the Flyers 31-24, but couldn't catch enough breaks.
"I wish a couple of tips could have gone in, but they made some big saves," said center Paul Stastny, who scored his eighth goal of the season in the loss. "But I thought we played well."
The Avalanche allowed the Flyers to convert 2-of-5 chances with the man advantage after killing off 10 straight penalties in its previous two games.
The Lightning (7-15-8), meanwhile, have had no luck on the power play lately, failing to score on all 26 chances in their last six games.
Colorado defeated Tampa Bay for the third straight time, 4-3 on Nov. 29 behind two goals from Wojtek Wolski. The Avalanche has also won three of the last four meetings in Tampa Bay.
The Lightning, last in the NHL with 22 points, haven't played since a 2-0 loss to Ottawa on Saturday, and have put in extra practice in preparation for this game.
"There will be a lot of practice time in the next four days," interim coach Rick Tocchet said. "It's not about a system, it's about grit and wanting to win and we didn't want to win.
"That was some bad hockey out there (Saturday) and if I was a fan I'd want to get my money back because that was terrible hockey."
Tampa Bay, which snapped a nine-game losing streak with last Thursday's 3-1 victory in Montreal, is 2-8-4 since Tocchet took over for the fired Barry Melrose.
Martin St. Louis is expected to play Thursday after leaving Saturday's game in the final minute of the third period when he was hit in the forehead by linesman Derek Amell's skate. St. Louis, who has three goals and three assists in his last five home games, was bleeding profusely and needed eight stitches to close two cuts on his forehead.
Lightning goaltender Mike Smith made 31 saves against the Senators, as he fell to 0-7-2 with a 2.77 GAA since Nov. 26.
Smith stopped 20-of-21 shots in the loss to the Avalanche last month after posting a 2.10 GAA in winning his first three career games - all with Dallas - against them.
Andrew Raycroft will start in goal for the Avalanche. He also started in Colorado's match-up against the Lightning earlier this season, stopping 17-of-20 shots to pick up the victory. Raycroft is 8-1-1 in 12 career appearances against Tampa Bay.
|Dec 18 '08||COL 2 at TBL 1 - SO||M. Hejduk|
|Nov 29 '08||TBL 3 at COL 4||D. Jones|
|M. St. Louis||31||10||15||25||+5||2||1||0|