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RED WINGS (16-7-1) at AVALANCHE (12-13-1)
TV: FS-Detroit, ALTITUDE (HD)
LAST 10: Detroit 8-2-0; Colorado 4-6-0
Season Series: Sunday's matchup is the third of four meetings between these Western Conference rivals. Detroit won each of the first two matchups by a three-goal margin. On Oct. 8 in Colorado, Ty Conklin made 29 saves in a 3-0 victory, and the Red Wings posted a 5-2 home win on Nov. 8 behind a hat trick by Johan Franzen, who has 10 goals in his last nine games against the Avalanche, a team the Wings have dominated over the last dozen years. Since 1999-2000, Detroit is 32-10-5 against the Avs, its third-best winning percentage against any Western opponent.
Big Story: The Red Wings are aiming for their first eight-game winning streak since Jan. 17-Feb. 5, 2008, having outscored their opponents 28-12 in winning seven straight. Detroit's 3-2 shootout win in the Discover Thanksgiving Showdown in Boston is its only one-goal victory during the streak -- and also served as the Bruins' only loss in November.
The Avalanche hope to slow down Detroit and post a winning record on their season-long, eight-game homestand, which concludes on Sunday. The are 4-3-0 on the homestand after winning back-to-back home games for the first time since January with their 3-2 shootout victory over the Blues on Friday. The win also marked the first time Colorado has won two in a row since winning five straight, all on the road, from Oct. 10-17.
Red Wings: Fast starts have been key for Detroit during its winning streak -- the Wings have outscored opponents 10-1 in the first period. Three of those 10 goals came Friday in Buffalo, as Jakub Kindl, Franzen and Valtteri Filppula all found the back of the net within the first 15 minutes, setting the stage for a 4-1 victory. Jimmy Howard took care of the rest, stopping 27 shots in his 17th straight start for his league-leading 15th win. The Wings have claimed four straight on the road and have just two defeats in their last 13 games -- back-to-back losses to St. Louis and San Jose during a recent West Coast trip.
"We made a decision when we went out west not to be a mentally soft team," Howard said. "We want to be mentally tough. This game is full of mistakes, so it's how you respond after making them. We've gotten a lot mentally tougher since then."
Howard will have a much-deserved rest on Sunday, as Conklin will be in goal looking for a repeat performance of his shutout win at the Pepsi Center in October.
Avalanche: It's been the "Ryan O'Reilly show" the last two games for Colorado. The team's leading scorer with 19 points, O'Reilly tallied a goal and two assists in the Avs' 6-1 drubbing of New Jersey on Wednesday, then scored the tying goal as well as the shootout winner in the victory over the Blues on Friday.
"He's been doing this for a while now," coach Joe Sacco said of O'Reilly, who added an assist on Friday for his third multi-point game out of the last four. "He's been playing really well. The kid's been showing signs and emerging as one of the top players."
Semyon Varlamov was outstanding in goal, making 35 saves for Colorado, who gave the Blues their first loss this season when leading after two periods.
Who's Hot: Datsyuk has points in seven of his last eight games, notching six goals and seven assists in that span. Filppula has five goals and two assists during his current five-game point streak. … Besides O'Reilly, Milan Hejduk has five points in his last four games for the Avs. Varlamov has allowed two goals or less in each of his last five starts, posting a 1.78 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage in that stretch.
Injury Report: For Detroit, Patrick Eaves is several weeks from returning after suffering a broken jaw when he was hit by a slap shot on Nov. 26 against Nashville. … Colorado forwards Peter Mueller (concussion) and Mark Olver (head) remain on IR, along with defenseman Erik Johnson (groin).
Stat Pack: The Avalanche are perfect in four shootouts this season, with Varlamov in net for all of them. The tiebreaker is something Colorado has excelled at in recent years, going 15-1 in its last 16 shootouts dating back to December 2009 and 30-10 in its last 40, according to the team's website.
Puck Drop: The biggest issue the Red Wings might have these days is about goal celebrations. After Detroit scored the first goal in Buffalo, Kindl wasn't sure if he would get credit or if the goal would go to Justin Abdelkader, who was in front of the net.
"I didn't give a high-five to our forwards so Fil (Filppula) asked me, 'Oh, you don't give the forwards a high-five?'" Kindl said on the team's website. "At first I didn't understand what he was saying. But usually whoever scores, you go through the whole bench, and I wasn't sure that I scored so I just went through our D and not the forwards. That's what pretty much happened."