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In recent weeks, the Dallas Stars have moved into the thick of the postseason race while the Colorado Avalanche has fallen below the line.
The Stars try to extend their season-high winning streak to six games on Thursday night as they visit an Avalanche team looking to build off of its first win in two weeks.
Dallas (24-18-7) made its fifth straight playoff appearance in 2008, but was tied for 13th in the Western Conference - five points behind eighth-place Colorado - on Jan. 11.
The Stars, however, have since put together a 7-1-1 run that has them in sixth place in the conference. They're one of six teams within two points of each other for the West's final three playoff spots.
A 3-1 victory over visiting Calgary on Tuesday was Dallas' fifth straight overall, posting its longest winning streak since a seven-game run from Jan. 29-Feb. 11, 2008.
"It's been a lot of fun and we are still in a clump of teams fighting for position," Marty Turco, who made 24 saves in his 20th consecutive start, told the Stars' official Web site. "One game at a time, no matter where we are in the standings. We are starting to see what we are capable of now."
The Avalanche (24-26-1) has been heading in the other direction, with a 2-7-0 record since Jan. 10. They've missed the playoffs only once in the previous 13 years, but would not qualify if the season ended today because they're tied for 12th in the West - only two points ahead of conference-worst St. Louis.
Colorado is last in the Northwest Division, but defeated first-place Calgary 4-3 on Monday to snap a four-game losing streak. The Avs had been outscored 14-7 in their first three games after the All-Star break and hadn't won since beating the Flames 6-2 on Jan. 18.
"We need to turn this thing around and start winning hockey games to make the playoffs," said All-Star forward Milan Hejduk, who scored his team-leading 19th goal Monday. "It's very frustrating."
Things have been a bit easier lately for the Stars, who've outscored teams 20-7 during their win streak.
During those five games, Mike Ribeiro - whose 44 points are tied with Brad Richards for the team lead - has totaled three goals and five assists, Steve Ott has three goals and four assists, and Jere Lehtinen has three goals and two assists.
Rookie James Neal has three goals and three assists in his last three contests, while Richards has two goals and six assists in his last six.
Turco's goaltending has balanced that offense, as he's compiled a 1.40 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage during the winning streak.
He's been in net for both of Dallas' matchups with Colorado this season - the Stars lost 5-4 on Oct. 18 and won 2-1 in a shootout on Dec. 5. Whereas both of those games were in Dallas, Colorado has won the last two meetings in Denver but is 2-5-0 on its current eight-game homestand - the second-longest in franchise history.
Peter Budaj made 36 saves Monday and has started Colorado's last two games, with Andrew Raycroft struggling through an 0-5-0 stretch in which he's posted a 3.98 GAA.
Budaj will be in net Thursday night. He is 2-2-3 with a 2.86 GAA in 11 career games against the Stars.