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Old 03-08-2008, 10:42 AM   #282
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Win streak five, deficit in division point after Theodore's shutout
By Rick Sadowski, Rocky Mountain News (Contact)
Originally published 09:23 p.m., March 6, 2008
Updated 02:43 a.m., March 7, 2008
Avalanche goalie Jose Theodore gets in position to stop a shot by Anaheim's Teemu Selanne during the second period of Thursday's game at the Pepsi Center. Theodore recorded a shutout as Colorado beat the Ducks 1-0.

Joe Mahoney The Rocky

Avalanche goalie Jose Theodore gets in position to stop a shot by Anaheim's Teemu Selanne during the second period of Thursday's game at the Pepsi Center. Theodore recorded a shutout as Colorado beat the Ducks 1-0.
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Jose Theodore got his groove back a while ago. Wojtek Wolski is hopeful his returned Thursday night.

Theodore continued his resurgence with a perfect 27-save performance Thursday night at the Pepsi Center and Wolski scored his first goal in six weeks in the Avalanche's 1-0 victory against the Anaheim Ducks.

"I think he needed a goal," said coach Joel Quenneville, who reminded reporters that defenseman John-Michael Liles broke a 49-game drought with the winning goal Tuesday against Vancouver. "Those are two guys whose goals have to make them feel comfortable in the course of a game."

With five consecutive wins, the Avalanche has pulled one point behind first-place Minnesota in the Northwest Division with 14 games left in the regular season.

Thursday's win was especially sweet because the Avalanche lost all three previous games to the defending Stanley Cup champions by one goal, one in overtime and one in a shootout.

"Every time you play the Ducks, you know you're not going to get too many goals because they're such a good hockey team," said Theodore, who posted his second shutout of the season and the 25th of his career.

He has won five games in a row for the first time since March 2004 with the Montreal Canadiens.

Theodore had to be sharp from the start, as he made a right-pad save against Ducks forward Corey Perry on a breakaway early in the first period.

"To get a shutout, you need luck and the guys played so well," he said. "When you're only up by one goal, you don't really think about the shutout. It feels good, obviously, as a team effort because we did play really well, but it's the two points I care about.

"I don't want to get carried away. We've got to turn the page quick. We haven't achieved anything yet. We're still in a tight race."

Theodore has started 13 of the Avalanche's past 14 games and allowed two goals or fewer in 10 of them. He has posted a 1.37 goals-against average and .950 save percentage during the five-game streak.

Wolski was in a different kind of streak - 14 games without a goal - when he accepted a cross-ice pass from Andrew Brunette and shot the puck between Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller's pads at 11:59 of the second period.

The second-year left wing was excited, to say the least, as he pumped his fist after collecting his first goal since Jan. 24 against Minnesota.

"That's about the longest stretch I've ever had in my career - NHL, junior," said Wolski, who was a healthy scratch for three of the previous six games and made his way back into the lineup Tuesday, three days after Ryan Smyth and Marek Svatos went down with injuries. "When you get a goal, it's exciting. When it's a game-winning goal, it's even better."

Wolski, who is playing on a line with Brunette and Paul Stastny, had 10 assists during his goal-scoring slump, but Quenneville was looking for a better all-around game.

"You have to contribute in other ways and I wasn't at the time," Wolski said. "I think, because I'm a young guy, the coaches and the staff wanted to make sure that they were getting their point across and making sure that I was working a little harder. It was a lesson learned."

Brunette was almost as happy as Wolski when that puck went in.

"Maybe he can take this and run with it," he said.

Peter Forsberg drew one of the Ducks' four first-period penalties when he was slashed on the wrist by Perry. He left the bench area for a few minutes and missed a shift.

"It's OK," Forsberg said. "It was my skate, actually, it wasn't my wrist. I just lost an edge there, so it was no problem."

ETC.: Forsberg played 21:51 with one shot on goal and several nifty passes in his second game since rejoining the Avalanche. "The first period I was a little tired," he said. "I definitely felt the last game since I hadn't played in a while. But the longer the game went on, I thought the line played better and I played better, too. Hopefully, the points and the goals will come soon, but it's great to be back just to be a part of the team and winning games." . . . Perry left the game midway through the third period with a lacerated leg.

NUMBERS GAME

5 -game winning streak for the Avalanche, its longest since a similar streak Feb. 27 to March 7 last season.

BRUNETTE NOMINATED

Forward Andrew Brunette has been nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy by the Colorado chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The award is given to the NHL player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

Brunette, 34, played in his 439th consecutive game Thursday, the longest active streak in the league. It began Jan. 2, 2002, when he was a member of the Minnesota Wild. He has 14 goals and 31 assists in 68 games and is the kind of unsung player who is valuable to any team.

Masterton, who played at the University of Denver, died after suffering a head injury in a 1968 game while playing for the Minnesota North Stars.

FINGER RETURNS

Defenseman Jeff Finger, who missed the previous six games with a hand injury, replaced Jordan Leopold in the lineup. The Avalanche has eight healthy defensemen, so coach Joel Quenneville will have some tough decisions to make the rest of the way.

"(Finger) really gives you a dimension back there that we appreciate," Quenneville said. "I think our defense has been more physical since the (trading) deadline. You put one more physical guy back there in 'Fingie' and it's a little more challenging for the opposition. Offensively, he's probably a little underrated, but he's been very consistent and deserves to play."

HE SAID IT

"It's always fun to get a shutout, but it's the win that's really good."

Jose Theodore, Avalanche goalie, on his 27-save performance.

Avalanche 1, Ducks 0

Anaheim0 0 0 - 0

Colorado0 1 0 - 1

First period - None. Penalties - Kunitz, Ana (hooking), 5:16; Perry, Ana (slashing), 10:30; Pronger, Ana, double minor (hooking, unsportsmanlike conduct), 15:12.

Second period - 1, Col, Wolski 15 (Brunette, Stastny), 11:59. Penalties - Hannan, Col, (holding), 1:10; Salei, Col, (hooking), 4:50; Kunitz, Ana (interference), 6:05.

Third period - None. Penalties - Salei, Col, (hooking), :41; Kunitz, Ana, minor-misconduct (holding stick), 19:44.

Shots - Ana 6-9-12 - 27. Col 12-11-7 - 30. Power plays - Ana 0 of 3; Col 0 of 6. Goalies - Ana, Hiller 6-5-1 (30 shots-29 saves). Col, Theodore 21-17-2 (27-27). A - 18,007 (18,007). T - 2:15. Referees - Ian Walsh, Brad Watson. Linesmen - Shane Heyer, Pierre Racicot.
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