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HOCKEY

Avs take shootout expertise to Chicago

The Colorado Avalanche have excelled this season by waiting out their opponents and pouncing in the shootout.

That strategy could work to perfection this evening given that the Chicago Blackhawks are in action for a second straight night.

The Avs, coming off their 10th straight shootout victory, do battle with the Central Division leaders tonight looking to deal the Blackhawks a third straight defeat.

It has been an up-and-down season for Colorado except when the games go beyond 65 minutes. The Avs went just 4-9-1 in November, but rebounded last month with a 10-5-0 mark and Monday's 2-1 shootout win over the Kings to open January improved them to 7-0 in shootouts this year.

Milan Hejduk scored the only goal of Monday's tiebreaker and Semyon Varlamov made 31 saves before shining in the shootout. Colorado moved one shy of the NHL record of 11 straight shootout wins by the Dallas Stars during the 2005-06 season.

"Nothing special," Varlamov said of his shootout success this year. "I don't know, maybe just good luck. I don't like shootouts. I just try to wait to see what the player's going to do and just wait, wait, wait. That's it."

Ryan O'Reilly scored with 5:43 left in the third period for the Avalanche, who have won three straight and eight of nine despite playing a second game in a row without Matt Duchene. He is expected to miss a month with a knee injury.

Colorado has taken the first two of a four-game swing and have won three straight as the visitor overall since a nine-game road slide.

The Avs notched a 5-4 shootout win when they last met the Blackhawks on Oct. 22 in Chicago, two days after dropping a home game to the 'Hawks. Colorado has won four of six versus Chicago overall, but has lost six of its last nine at the United Center.

The Blackhawks will look to wrap up tonight's meeting in 60 minutes and bounce back from last night's 5-4 setback to the Flyers. Brent Seabrook and Patrick Kane scored 25 seconds apart to erase a two-goal deficit in the third period, but Kane took a high-stick penalty late in the game that led to a game-winning goal by Philadelphia with 32.8 seconds left to play.

"Frustrating that we didn't get it into overtime," said Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville.

Chicago was making its first trip to Philadelphia since Kane's overtime goal in Game 6 of the 2010 Cup Finals that ended the Blackhawks' 49-year championship drought.

Andrew Shaw scored in his NHL debut and Jimmy Hayes also tallied for the Blackhawks, who have lost two straight for the first time since a three-game skid from Nov. 18-23. Ray Emery posted a season-high 41 saves against his former team.

Chicago, which is 6-1-1 in the second contest of back-to-back games this year, leads Detroit and St. Louis by just one point for first place in the Central Division and begins a four-game homestand tonight. The 'Hawks are 14-4-3 in their last 21 at home.