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The Colorado Avalanche opened its six-game road trip with a third straight win that helped put the club in striking distance for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The rest of the trip hasn't gone quite as well.
The Avs have been outscored by 13 goals while losing the past four games, a skid they'll hope to snap as they try to salvage the finale of their trip Monday night against the league-worst New York Islanders.
Colorado (28-34-1) had lost 11-of-14 heading into a game at Detroit on Feb. 15, but beat the Stanley Cup champions 6-5 in a shootout. The Avalanche followed that with a home win over Ottawa before opening a season-long six-game road trip at Washington.
Colorado cruised past the Southeast Division-leading Capitals 4-1, a win that put it within five points of the last playoff spot in the West. The Avalanche then lost in Carolina and Atlanta before getting blanked 4-0 in New Jersey on Thursday, and they followed that up by allowing four first-period goals in a 6-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday.
Coach Tony Granato's team is now in last place in the West, 10 points out of the eighth spot.
"Obviously we're not happy with our positioning," forward Darcy Tucker said. "We've just got to continue to work hard and move forward and try to be as tight as we can and stick together."
The Avalanche scores 2.56 goals per game to rank among the bottom third of the league, but it's been an inability to stop anything that's really hampered them. Colorado allows an average of 3.16 goals, the most in the West.
Goaltender Peter Budaj got pulled 13 minutes into the loss to the Rangers, his fifth straight. He's 3-10-0 with a 3.74 goals-against average in his last 13 starts. Andrew Raycroft hasn't been much better, going 3-8-0 with a 3.52 GAA in his last 12 games.
The Islanders (19-36-7) certainly know something about defensive deficiencies, as they're one of three teams that have allowed more goals than Colorado.
They've been much better lately, however. New York has two shutout wins over Eastern playoff contenders in its last four games, first a 4-0 victory over New Jersey on Feb. 21, then a 2-0 win over Buffalo on Saturday as Yann Danis made 31 saves.
Danis, who was also in goal against the Devils, is 2-1-0 with a 0.34 GAA in his last three starts.
"Pucks are just hitting me right now," Danis told the Islanders' official Web site. "My positioning has been good; I think that's been the key to my game. Also, I think the guys are playing really good hockey in front of me."
Both goals against the Sabres came off the stick of Sean Bergenheim, who seems to have found his touch offensively. New York's first round pick in 2002, Bergenheim has four goals in his past four games to give him a career-high 11.
The Islanders could use more offense from Bergenheim with the news that leading goal-scorer Bill Guerin is likely to be traded. Guerin didn't play against Buffalo and reports indicate a deal is imminent.
Colorado has lost four straight on Long Island, where they haven't played since December 2005.
|Mar 02 '09||COL 2 at NYI 4||B. Gervais|