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Old 01-15-2008, 04:17 PM   #154
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Default Avalanche-Lightning Jan 15, 2008, 7:30 PM EST

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The Colorado Avalanche are hoping their offensive struggles are behind them.

They'll be looking to wrap up their five-game road trip on a high note on Tuesday when they face the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Avalanche (24-18-3) won 4-3 in a shootout in Florida on Sunday, a day after beating Carolina 5-4. Colorado had dropped seven of its previous eight games before the two wins, averaging just 1.6 goals over that span.

Colorado's offense has been hampered by injuries - forward Ryan Smyth has not played since Dec. 31 because of a broken ankle and captain Joe Sakic has been out since the end of November with a hernia. Neither is expected back for close to two months.

However, a number of the Avalanche's scorers have been slumping as well. Andrew Brunette had scored just one goal in 18 games before picking up two against the Panthers.

"It's nice to get a bounce here and there and have a decent night like that," said Brunette, who got his first multigoal game of the season. "Sometimes you have games where you get a little hot streak going."

Marek Svatos, who leads the Avalanche with 20 goals, also scored on Sunday and has seven goals in his last six games.

"It was overall a very tight game," coach Joel Quenneville said. "They kept coming back every period."

The Avalanche, who won for the second time on the five-game trip, will open a five-game homestand after Tuesday's game. Colorado, 8-12-3 on the road, had dropped four straight away from home before winning its last two.

Colorado is making its first trip to Tampa Bay since a 5-4 overtime win on Jan. 19, 2004. The Avalanche are just 3-8-1 on the road against the Lightning (17-23-5).

Tampa Bay, however, has lost four straight and seven of eight at home after starting the season 11-3-1 on its own ice. The Lightning have been outscored 17-6 in their last four at home.

They are coming off Saturday's 5-3 win over Florida - just their third in 14 games overall. Nick Tarnasky scored twice for the first time in 132 career games, and Brad Richards also had two goals.

"It's just exciting to be part of a win," said Tarnasky, who entered the game with just one goal this season. "I haven't had a night like that since my second year in the American (Hockey) League."

Tampa Bay allowed at least three goals for the 10th straight game and let Florida come within one of the lead before Richards scored into an empty net. The Lightning rank last in the league with 3.40 goals yielded per game.

"We had the game in total control but we continue to make things exciting," Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella. "It's unbelievable how we just continue to keep teams in games."

Tampa Bay has scored five goals in each of its last two wins.

"Tonight the puck found my stick at the right time and I was able to get off good shots," Tarnasky said. "It's something I can build on now and hopefully get us going in the right direction."
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