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Avalanche, Blues renew rivalry after testy playoff series

Nov 12, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar (8) calls out in the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Blues just ended the longest winning streak in the NHL this season, and now they are going after another one.

St. Louis, which has won two straight after dropping eight in a row, beat red-hot Vegas on the road Saturday night to end the Golden Knights’ nine-game winning streak. Now the Blues travel to face the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night at Denver.

Colorado has won four in a row, which isn’t quite what Vegas had done, but the reigning champions have started to string victories together. The Avalanche have a chance to sweep their three-game homestand before playing eight of their next 10 on the road.

This will be the first time the Blues have visited Denver since losing in the second round of last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs in six games. Goaltender Jordan Binnington, who was knocked out of that series in the third game, is coming off a 34-save performance against Vegas. He made 22 saves in the third period of the 3-2 win.

St. Louis is trying to get back to its level from four years ago, when it went on a surprising run to win the Stanley Cup. The eight-game skid — all regulation losses — negated a quick start to the year but head coach Craig Berube has seen signs of bouncing back after the Blues beat San Jose 5-3 and then the Golden Knights.

“We’re building. We’re doing a good job,” Berube said after Saturday’s win. “This was a better game than the last one. We have to keep getting better. … Puck play has been solid, not making too many turnovers. Overall, when you have good puck play, it keeps teams from not getting freebies.”

Colorado has been winning despite mounting personnel losses. In the past two weeks, the Avalanche have lost Valeri Nichushkin, Bowen Byram, Sam Girard and Shane Bowers to injuries, and then endured another when Kurtis MacDermid left Saturday’s win over Carolina with a lower-body injury.

Nichushkin, Byram and Bowers, who was hurt in his NHL debut on Tuesday, are out for multiple weeks.

“In the room, doesn’t matter who’s in, who’s out, who we have in the lineup, just go try and execute and compete and get wins,” J.T. Compher said after the 4-1 win over the Hurricanes.

It helps when the stars come through as they did Saturday. Cale Makar, who won the Norris and Conn Smythe trophies last season, had two goals and Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen had the others.

“I don’t think it has to just be us,” Makar said. “We obviously want to step up and make sure that we’re doing the things right to help our team win every single night.”

MacKinnon’s goal was just his fourth of the year and his first since Oct. 22, but he has done plenty to help Colorado win. MacKinnon is tied for the NHL lead in assists with 19.

“He’s an incredible player and obviously he brings it every single night so I have no issues with him not scoring many goals right now,” Makar said. “He’s obviously making a lot of plays.”

–Field Level Media