(SportsNetwork.com) - The Colorado Avalanche will shoot for a fourth win in five games when they host the Ottawa Senators in Thursday's clash in the Mile High City.
Patrick Roy's club is 3-1-0 over its last four games and has won six times over the last nine trips to the ice. Despite the recent surge, last season's Central Division champions are still seven points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Avalanche are coming off an impressive road win, as they posted a 2-0 victory Tuesday night in Chicago. The victory came thanks in large part to goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who made 54 saves to earn his third shutout of the season.
Chicago outshot the Avs by a 54-24 margin and the Blackhawks owned a 21-5 edge in shots in the second period after falling behind 2-0 in the first.
But Varlamov proved to be up to the task, setting a Colorado record for most saves in a game. The 54 saves were second most in the overall franchise history behind Ron Tugnutt's 70 saves for the Quebec Nordiques on March 21, 1991 at Boston.
"I saw most of the shots. The guys didn't stay in front of me. They gave me a chance to see the puck the whole time," Varlamov said. "That was the key."
Varlamov is just the third NHL goalie in the expansion era with a shutout of 54 or more saves, joining a group that also includes Edmonton's Ben Scrivens and Phoenix's Mike Smith. Varlamov also set the NHL record for the most saves in a regular-season shutout on the road since shots on goal became an official NHL statistic in 1955-56.
Nathan MacKinnon and Max Talbot each scored early in the game for the Avalanche, who bounced back from a 4-3 loss to Columbus on Sunday.
Colorado needed just 53 seconds to open the scoring as the rebound of John Mitchell's shot went right to MacKinnon, who wristed it over the glove of Crawford from the right side of the net. Just 24 seconds later, Talbot slipped in MacKinnon's pass off the rush for a 2-0 game.
Varlamov expects to get the start again tonight and he owns a 2-2-1 record and 3.21 goals against average in five career outings against the Senators.
Colorado is playing the first of two straight on home ice and also will host Dallas on Saturday. The Avs are 9-9-3 at home this season.
Ottawa also finds itself outside the playoff conversation in the East, as it sits six points behind the conference's final wild card spot.
The Senators lost the opener of a four-game road trip Tuesday in Philadelphia, dropping a shootout decision against the Flyers. The setback dropped Ottawa to 8-10-4 as the visiting team this season and tonight the Sens will try to pick up their first win in Colorado in nearly a decade.
Ottawa has lost three straight overtime decisions in Denver since last winning at the Pepsi Center on Dec. 12, 2005. The Senators were able to halt a seven- game overall slide in this series earlier this season, picking up a 5-3 win against a visiting Colorado club on Oct. 16.
The Sens grabbed a 1-0 lead on Tuesday after Mike Hoffman scored at the 6:36 mark of the third period. However, Wayne Simmonds tied it up for Philly less than three minutes later. Simmonds would later notch the game-winning shootout marker for the hosts.
Craig Anderson made 33 saves in defeat for the Senators, who fell to 2-3-2 over their last seven contests.
"All I can do is give our team a chance to win at the end of the night," said Anderson. "You know you roll the dice in the shootout. That's kind of how the way things go."
Anderson is 1-2-1 with a lofty 5.40 GAA against the Avs, a team he played with for parts of two seasons in 2009-10 and 2010-11.
Ottawa will continue its trek with Saturday's game in Arizona before capping the swing Tuesday night in Dallas.