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Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 2:49 AM

Associated Press

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Atlanta Thrashers vs. Colorado Avalanche

Behind improved play at home, the Atlanta Thrashers have broken out of last place in the Southeast Division. To keep from sliding back to the bottom, the Thrashers need better play on the road.

Facing the Western Conference's worst team could provide a good opportunity.

Making its first trip to Denver in more than two years, Atlanta searches for its third straight win and tries to avoid a fourth consecutive road loss Tuesday night against the Colorado Avalanche.

The Thrashers (25-35-6) have a league-low 28 points at home this season but posted three wins during a season-high four-game homestand to move a point ahead of Tampa Bay in the Southeast. While Atlanta has seemed to find consistency at home, it has sandwiched a pair of three-game road losing streaks around four consecutive wins away from home.

If the Thrashers can claim their first victory away from home since a 7-6 shootout win Feb. 16 at Los Angeles, they will have their first three-game win streak since Jan. 16-20.

Despite the red-hot Ilya Kovalchuk leading a renewed offense, Atlanta hasn't been able to overcome one of the league's worst defenses - 3.42 goals per game - during its recent road skid, getting outscored 11-7. Starting goaltender Kari Lehtonen, however, comes off a pair of strong performances, beating Montreal 2-0 on Friday night and helping the Thrashers top Northwest Division-leading Calgary 5-2 on Sunday.

"I think we want to prove to ourselves that we can play against and beat teams like Calgary and the better teams in the league," said right wing Bryan Little, who scored twice. "We're winning these games for us and our fans."

Should he start Tuesday, Lehtonen will bring a 2-0-0 record with a 2.57 goals-against average in three career appearances against the Avalanche.

He could have plenty of backing from Kovalchuk, who is among the NHL's leaders in goals (36) and points (76) thanks to 15 goals and 26 points in his last 13 games. Kovalchuk scored in a 4-3 victory over Colorado on Feb. 24 to start his current six-game point streak.

The Avalanche (29-36-1) comes into Tuesday's game looking to build off Sunday's 5-1 win at Chicago and make its own move off the bottom - the club trails Phoenix by two points in the Western Conference. Colorado, however, remains on the verge of finishing last in its division for the first time since moving to Denver for the 1995-96 season.

"Obviously the standings look pretty bad for us," goaltender Peter Budaj said. "It's great to get a win. It's a great effort. Everyone was contributing."

Since Jan. 31, the Avalanche has five losing streaks of three or more games with Sunday's victory ending a season-high six-game skid - the team's longest since dropping eight straight from Jan. 2-23, 1992, as the Quebec Nordiques. Milan Hejduk and Ryan Smyth each scored and extended their point streaks to four games for Colorado, which had 10 goals during its slide.

The Thrashers haven't traveled to Denver since taking a 6-3 win on Feb. 8, 2007.

2008-2009 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Mar 10 '09 ATL 3 at COL 0 Z. Bogosian
Feb 24 '09 COL 3 at ATL 4 R. Peverley
I. Kovalchuk67364278-937104
T. White67184159-724110
V. Kozlov67183856-173682
B. Little64281846-216114
R. Peverley51122133+72324
R. Hainsey6752833-132430
C. Armstrong67161127-16522
M. Reasoner64101323+93000
E. Christensen4751419-71410
J. Williams4171118-9842
T. Enstrom6731417+64201
J. Slater5061016+04600
E. Perrin6351015-72010
M. Schneider4441115-105010
N. Havelid6321315+44200
C. Thorburn677714-77901
E. Boulton612911-114900
Z. Bogosian32459+82601
N. Oystrick42369-92900
J. Crabb26347-22801
C. Stuart18325+11000
G. Exelby44055-58300
B. Valabik41055-510100
J. Motzko6101+1000
B. Sterling3101-2000
J. Lavallee-Smotherman2000-1000
G. Lewis1000+0000
S. Lehman1000+0000
K. Lehtonen4016-20-311513063.00.912
J. Hedberg247-9-3716143.61.884
O. Pavelec113-6-0322753.55.884
R. Smyth67243256-85493
M. Hejduk67252853-91292
W. Wolski66142337-82623
P. Stastny41102434-62062
M. Svatos59141731-43261
J. Liles6082230-132540
T. Arnason6351722-131421
J. Leopold6461420-101811
R. Salei6541620-46410
T. Hensick4741418+01210
C. McLeod6512517-313203
C. Stewart4210717-154701
I. Laperriere5971017+112400
D. Jones408513-8811
D. Tucker536612-146311
B. Clark6721012-73201
J. Sakic1521012-6600
C. McCormick4211011+17900
B. Guite35459+41400
A. Foote41167-123001
S. Hannan66066-122400
D. Tjarnqvist34224+2800
B. Willsie31134-5800
P. Dupuis8000-1400
K. Cumiskey6000-2000
C. Durno2000+0000
M. Hendricks1000+0200
P. Budaj4617-26-113012662.96.897
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