NHL

Avalanche-Blues Preview

Attempting to climb back into playoff position without their top two scorers, the Colorado Avalanche have a tough task at hand.

That assignment becomes more challenging when the next opponent hasn't allowed a goal in over 240 minutes.

The Avalanche will at least have momentum of their side when they visit a St. Louis Blues team aiming for a fifth consecutive shutout Tuesday night.

This late-season matchup carries plenty of significance for both teams, with St. Louis (45-22-9) tied with Dallas atop the Western Conference and Colorado (39-33-4) three points behind eighth-place Minnesota with six remaining.

Minus Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon due to knee injuries, the Avalanche lost further ground with Saturday's 4-0 home loss to the rising Wild.

The depleted offense did come through Monday in Nashville, however, scoring three first-period goals en route to a critical 4-3 victory to extend Colorado's road winning streak to four games.

''It was a chance for us to play a strong game and prove that we were not going to give up,'' coach Patrick Roy said. I thought we were always resilient after losses and we've been playing well on the road. I thought our guys responded really well."

A repeat effort figures to be difficult with the Blues having won four straight and on a shutout streak of 240 minutes and 18 seconds. They're only the fourth team to record four consecutive shutouts in the expansion era that began in 1967-68, and the first since Arizona had five straight from Dec. 31-Jan. 9, 2004.

After Brian Elliott posted his third in a row with 15 saves Friday against Vancouver, Jake Allen had 32 as St. Louis stymied the league's second-highest scoring team in Saturday's 4-0 road rout of Washington.

''The guys took care of business in a tough rink against the first-place team in the league, so I think that gave us a little bit of a pump-up and a measuring stick,'' Elliott said. ''We can beat any team if we play our game.''

The duo has combined for a 2.18 goals-against average and 10 shutouts to help the Blues succeed despite injuries to several key players. Elliott, slated to start Tuesday, is 8-0-0 with a 1.58 GAA in nine starts since last losing on Feb. 9.

''The goalies have been just outstanding,'' coach Ken Hitchcock said. ''They are the story of the team this year, and they're keeping us afloat again.''

St. Louis will get one key contributor back for the stretch run with center Alexander Steen set to return from an upper-body injury that's sidelined him 15 games.

With its offense still short-handed, Colorado will lean again on Semyon Varlamov in what could be another low-scoring affair. The dependable netminder owns a 2.13 GAA and .939 save percentage over an eight-game stretch and has a history of playing well in this series.

Varlamov sports a 1.78 GAA in 16 career starts against St. Louis and has allowed five goals to help the Avalanche win all three matchups this season. He had 42 saves in a 3-1 victory at St. Louis on Dec. 13 and 33 in a 2-1 shootout win at home on Jan. 22.

Colorado, 22-16-0 on the road, has lost in eight of its last 10 visits to St. Louis.

More NHL