Despite some poor attendance figures, the Colorado Avalanche couldn't ask for a better start at home.
The Avalanche look to match a team record for consecutive home wins to open a season Friday night against the Chicago Blackhawks, who could have captain Jonathan Toews back on the ice.
Colorado (11-3-2) improved to 5-0 at the Pepsi Center by avoiding a third straight overall loss with a 4-1 victory over Phoenix on Wednesday. Since the franchise moved from Quebec to Denver, only the 2007-08 squad began the season with six consecutive wins at home.
After posting a Western Conference-low 69 points last season, the Avalanche are tied for the top spot in the West, thanks in part to outscoring opponents 20-8 at home.
Despite the early success, Colorado is near the bottom of the league with an average home attendance of 14,759. Wednesday's crowd of 11,012 was the smallest in Avalanche history.
"Our job is to go out and play hockey, our job is to provide entertainment for our fans and to make sure the games are exciting," first-year Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "I think we've done a good job of that this year."
Colorado certainly has and this contest could draw a good crowd. Coming off a 3-1 loss at Phoenix on Thursday, Chicago (8-5-1) beat the Avalanche 4-3 at home in a game decided by an eight-round shootout Oct. 10.
Milan Hejduk had a goal and Paul Stastny added an assist against the Blackhawks last month. Hejduk scored one goal and set up another and Stastny recorded three assists Wednesday as Colorado bounced back after being outscored 6-1 in consecutive losses at San Jose and Vancouver.
Hejduk has two goals with an assist in his last three games against Chicago.
Though Colorado's Peter Budaj made 28 saves in his season debut Wednesday, Chicago-area native Craig Anderson could be back in net against his former team.
Anderson, who spent his first three NHL seasons as a backup with Chicago, is 10-3-2 with a 2.11 goals-against average this season. He made a franchise-record 15 straight starts to begin the season before Budaj returned from the swine flu.
Anderson made 23 saves in his only appearance against the Blackhawks last month.
Jonathan Toews had an assist in that contest and could be in Chicago's lineup after missing the last five games due to concussion-like symptoms. Toews has one goal in nine games this season, but two with three assists in seven versus the Avalanche.
"Everyday it gets better," Toews told the Blackhawks' official Web site after skating Thursday morning. "We'll take it day by day. We'll see how everything goes."
Patrick Kane assisted on Kris Versteeg's short-handed goal for the Blackhawks, who fell to 2-3-0 on the road after losing for the second time in three overall contests Thursday.
Versteeg has a goal in each of his last two games and had two assists last month against the Avalanche. Kane, meanwhile, has six points in six games, but one in the past four versus Colorado.
Cristobal Huet made 20 saves against Phoenix, falling to 5-4-1 with a 2.36 GAA. Huet, who's 3-2-0 with two ties and a 2.39 GAA against Colorado, could start again in this back-to-back scenario.
Rookie backup Antti Niemi is 3-1-0 with 2.07 GAA, but made 24 saves in a 5-1 loss to Colorado on March 8.
Hawks likely missing their best and third-best (Hossa) players. I really hope the Avs take it to them.
Just from a hockey fan's perspective I'm really concerned about the concussion to Toews. Dude's one of the most exciting players in the game. I'd hate to see concussions cut his career short like it did Deader's.