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Posted On Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 5:00 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Avs lose Johnson, O'Brien, but get Wilson back

DENVER -- Just when it looked like the Colorado Avalanche were starting to get healthy, their defense corps has taken a double hit with the losses of Erik Johnson to a hand injury and Shane O'Brien to a knee injury.

Neither will play tonight when the Avalanche faces the Nashville Predators at the Pepsi Center in the opener of a home-and-home series that resumes Thursday in Music City.

The good news for the Avalanche is that defenseman Ryan Wilson will play for the first time since he suffered a concussion in a Dec. 6 game in Vancouver. The 6-foot-1, 207-pound Wilson was arguably the team's best defenseman when he was injured on a hit from behind by Maxim Lapierre that didn't result in a penalty or supplemental discipline.

"It's a great feeling," Wilson said this morning. "Coming to the rink all those days knowing that you're not playing, it gets to you. You're just waiting for this one moment to get back in the lineup. I felt good on the ice this morning and hopefully I can carry it into the game."

Wilson is a big hitter, but he's only been assessed 24 penalty minutes in 28 games. He's been a solid two-way defenseman with 1 goal, 13 assists and a plus-5 rating.

"He was playing physical and he was chipping in offensively, which is a bonus," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "Things were just going well for him. I think it all stems from him being involved in the game physically. I think he's certainly established a reputation that when he's on the ice to have your head up. That's what we look for from Ryan, to make sure that he keeps the opposition on their toes and doing it with discipline and not crossing the line. He's been real good at judging that."

Wilson said he isn’t nervous about getting hit again. He suffered a facial cut and blurred vision that lasted a couple of days after his face slammed into the glass on Lapierre's hit.

"No, it happens," he said. "You play so many games and you're going to take a couple hits here and there. It's something that happened and I'm not thinking about it. I'm just going to go out there and play. I expect to get hit."

The Avalanche went 10-5 without Wilson and have won nine of the past 11 games, with both losses coming in the second game of a back-to-back situation.

"It was awesome," Wilson said. "It was great to watch the guys go out there and play so well. You want to get back in the lineup and help the team out, but when they're playing that good you feel like they might not need you at the time. It was good to get my rest and now hopefully I can help us continue."

Johnson and O'Brien were injured in Saturday's 4-0 loss in St. Louis. Johnson skated this morning and will accompany the team for Thursday's game in Nashville, but O'Brien will be sidelined for an indefinite period. Matt Hunwick, a healthy scratch the previous five games, will suit up tonight.

"It's unfortunate that we lost two guys that have been contributing, but that's why we have eight defensemen," Sacco said.

The Predators have had the Avalanche's number lately. They swept the four-game series last season by a combined score of 17-8 and have won five consecutive meetings between the teams.

Nashville is on a 10-4 roll and is seventh in the tightly-packed Western Conference with a 22-15-4 record and 48 points. Colorado is 10th with a 23-19-1 record and 47 points.

"They're a hard-working team and they skate well," Avalanche captain Milan Hejduk said. "Every year it seems like they make the playoffs. It's a tough team to play against. If we want to make the playoffs, we have to do well against them."

The Avalanche will only play three home games in January after playing 19 at the Pepsi Center in November and December.

"Maybe it's a little better than having a stretch of six or seven games in a row at home," Hejduk said. "When they're spread out, maybe you can get ready for it more because it's so unusual this month to play at home. We'll see."
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 4:14 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Predators, Avalanche

DENVER -- These are the projected lineups for tonight's game between the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

PREDATORS
Colin Wilson - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Gabriel Bourque - Nick Spaling - Jordin Tootoo
Matt Halischuk - Craig Smith - Jerred Smithson

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Francis Bouillon - Ryan Ellis
Roman Josi - Kevin Klein

Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback

AVALANCHE

TJ Galiardi - Paul Stastny - David Jones
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Milan Hejduk
Chuck Kobasew - Jay McClement - Daniel Winnik
Cody McLeod - David Van Der Gulik - Kevin Porter

Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne
Ryan Wilson - Matt Hunwick
Kyle Quincey - Stefan Elliott

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Injuries: LW Matt Duchene (knee), D Erik Johnson (hand), LW Peter Mueller (head) and D Shane O'Brien (knee) are out.
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Posted On Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 4:46 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Varlamov starts, Quincey, Kobasew back for Colorado

DENVER -- Defenseman Kyle Quincey, left wing Chuck Kobasew and goalie Semyon Varlamov will be back in the Colorado Avalanche lineup for tonight's game against the Phoenix Coyotes at the Pepsi Center.

Quincey, the Avalanche's top-scoring defenseman with 3 goals and 14 assists in 32 games, was a healthy scratch for the previous four games after missing two with a groin injury. Kobasew has missed eight games with a head injury and Varlamov's only appearance in the previous six games came in Monday’s 4-2 win in Minnesota.

Quincey was replaced by Matt Hunwick after getting hurt Dec. 15 in San Jose and remained out of the lineup because coach Joe Sacco didn't want to make changes during a five-game winning streak that ended Tuesday with a 4-1 loss to Winnipeg.

Quincey will replace Hunwick as rookie Stefan Elliott's partner, and Kobasew will replace rookie Brad Malone on the third line with Jay McClement and TJ Galiardi.

"It was extremely frustrating (not to play), but I tried to look at the positives," Quincey said after this morning's skate. "It was a good time to get your legs back and fresh. It's almost at the halfway point (of the season) and I feel like I'm starting over again. It was like a little mini-training camp for me. I got back in the gym and had 10 great workouts. I'm fresh. I feel like it's my first game of the year again. It's a long season, a grind, and I guess I was fortunate to have a little vacation there."

Quincey didn't feel quite the same as last season when he missed the final 55 games to recover from a shoulder injury that required surgery. The Avalanche only won six of the last 36 games and finished 29th in the NHL standings.

"I can go back to last year and how (bad) the feeling was," he said. "The biggest thing was not being able to help the team when they needed it the most. I don't want to say it seemed like they didn't need me (this time), but we were winning and everything was good around here. The boys were happy and it wasn't anything like last year, when it was pretty depressing."

The Avalanche won eight home games in a row before Tuesday's loss and have won five of their past six games overall and six of eight to climb back into the Western Conference playoff race.

Tonight's game is especially important because the Avalanche open a four-game road trip on New Year's Eve in Anaheim and will play nine of 12 games in January on the road.

"We need to regroup," Sacco said. "We talked about a month ago about our team improving our home record, and certainly that's something that we did. This is a big game against a conference opponent. A team that plays a style that Phoenix does, you want to make sure you start the game on time and it's always nice to get a lead and give yourself a better chance to win. They play a very structured game and we have to be diligent with the puck and when we get our opportunities to make sure we get second and third efforts on the net."

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Posted On Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 4:44 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Banged-up Coyotes try to continue success in Denver

DENVER -- The Phoenix Coyotes didn't skate this morning after playing Wednesday night at home, where they lost 2-1 in overtime to Boston. Like their opponents tonight, the Colorado Avalanche, the Coyotes have lost a number of players to injuries, including goalie Mike Smith (groin) and center Martin Hanzal (head).

The Coyotes are in 11th place in the West with 40 points, one point behind eighth-place Dallas. The Avalanche are in 12th place with 39 points.

The Coyotes have won the last three meetings with the Avalanche at the Pepsi Center by the combined score of 11-3. Phoenix defeated Colorado 4-1 on Nov. 2.

Jason LaBarbera has started four consecutive games in goal for the Coyotes, and made 27 saves against the Bruins on Wednesday. He's gone 2-5 against Colorado in eight previous appearances with a shutout, a 3.23 goals-against average and .893 save percentage.

With Smith out, the Coyotes recalled Curtis McElhinney on Monday from the Portland Pirates in the American Hockey League. McElhinney owns a 2-1 career record against the Avalanche with one shutout, a 2.67 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

A four-year NHL veteran, McElhinney played four years at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. He played for Calgary, Anaheim and Ottawa before signing with Phoenix as a free agent on July 4. McElhinney went 9-11 with Portland this season with a 2.95 average and .910 save percentage.
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Posted On Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 4:42 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Wilson nearing return for Avalanche

DENVER -- Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ryan Wilson will miss his 11th consecutive game since getting hit from behind by Vancouver's Maxim Lapierre in a Dec. 6 game, but he skated for the third day in a row and is hopeful of playing next week. Wilson went face first into the glass, suffered a cut lip and blurred vision that lasted for a couple of days.

The Avalanche weren't pleased that Lapierre wasn't penalized or suspended.

"Any time you get your head run like that, you have to get a rest and let your brain heal," Wilson said. "It would have been nice for the team to get a power play there, but I guess the refs thought it wasn't that bad of a hit. Maybe they didn’t see my head go right into the glass, but I felt it pretty good."
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Posted On Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 3:24 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Coyotes, Avalanche

These are the projected lineups for tonight’s game between the Phoenix Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

COYOTES
Ray Whitney - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Lauri Korpikoski - Andy Miele - Radim Vrbata
Raffi Torres - Cal O'Reilly - Mikkel Boedker
Taylor Pyatt - Kyle Chipchura - Paul Bissonnette

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival
Rostislav Klesla - David Schlemko

Curtis McElhinney
Jason LaBarbera

Injuries: C Boyd Gordon (lower body), C Martin Hanzal (head) and G Mike Smith (groin) are out. D Adrian Aucoin (lower body) is day to day.

AVALANCHE
Matt Duchene - Paul Stastny - Daniel Winnik
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Milan Hejduk
Chuck Kobasew - Jay McClement - TJ Galiardi
Cody McLeod - David Van Der Gulik - Kevin Porter

Shane O'Brien - Erik Johnson
Kyle Quincey - Stefan Elliott
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Injuries: RW David Jones (groin), LW Peter Mueller (head), C Mark Olver (head) and D Ryan Wilson (head) are out.

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 4:06 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Avalanche look to keep up momentum at home

DENVER -- While the Colorado Avalanche are looking to stay hot on home ice, the Winnipeg Jets will be trying to get untracked on the road when the teams meet tonight at the Pepsi Center.

The Avalanche have reeled off an eight-game winning streak at home and have won five in a row overall to climb two games above the .500 mark (19-17-1) and within one point of eighth place in the Western Conference.

The Jets are 7-3-1 in their past 10 games, but just 1-4-2 in the past seven games away from the MTS Centre. Tonight's game will be just their second on the road in December, the previous one a 7-1 loss in Detroit on Dec. 10.

The Avalanche will be playing the second game of a back-to-back situation, having defeated Minnesota 4-2 on Monday to snap a road winless streak that had reached nine games (0-8-1). It was a particularly satisfying win because the Avalanche traveled early Monday morning, skipped the morning skate and didn't arrive at the team hotel until five hours before the opening faceoff.

But the early start enabled the Avalanche to leave Minnesota earlier than usual, and most players were home by 10:30 p.m. MST.

"As a coach, you're always worried about those type of games, coming off a two-game break (for Christmas) and not having a morning skate to get yourself going," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said after this morning's skate. "I thought the players responded quite well. We killed off nine minutes of penalties in the first period and that was quite a bit of a challenge because we used some of those guys over and over, and we had some guys that weren't getting out there as much as they should have been. But we stood strong and our special teams were really good last night and helped us stay in the game in the first period."

The Avalanche were awaiting word on whether left wing Cody McLeod would be suspended for his hit from behind against the Wild's Jared Spurgeon at 5:22 of the first period. McLeod was assessed a major penalty and automatic game misconduct.

Wild coach Mike Yeo told reporters today that Spurgeon suffered a lower-body injury and was scheduled to see a doctor. Spurgeon will miss at least one game, Wednesday in Nashville.

The Jets, meantime, were getting adjusted to the mile-high altitude in Denver for what will be their only visit this season.

"If you get stuck in long shifts, you could really have a hard time," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "You have to go 30 and 40-second shifts and get the (line) change because if you get stuck your recovery is really tough. You really hit the wall. It's an advantage to them, because they're used to it."

The Jets also haven't been used to being on the road, having played 11 of their past 12 games at home. Overall, the Jets have gone 4-8-4 in road games.

"We have to start winning some games on the road," Noel said. "If you're going to be a playoff-contending team, which we hope to be, you have to start getting to .500 on the road. That's got to be our next goal."

The Jets are just two points out of the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 3:10 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Jets, Avalanche

DENVER -- These are the projected lineups for tonight’s game between the Winnipeg Jets and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

JETS
Evander Kane - Alex Burmistrov - Blake Wheeler
Andrew Ladd - Nik Antropov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Antti Miettinen
Eric Fehr - Tim Stapleton - Chris Thorburn

Dustin Byfuglien - Toby Enstrom
Mark Stuart - Zach Bogosian
Ron Hainsey - Johnny Oduya

Chris Mason
Ondrej Pavelec

Injuries: D Randy Jones (upper body), C Bryan Little (foot) and D Derek Meech (knee) are out.

AVALANCHE
Matt Duchene - Paul Stastny - Daniel Winnik
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Milan Hejduk
Brad Malone - Jay McClement - TJ Galiardi
Cody McLeod - David Van Der Gulik - Kevin Porter

Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne
Shane O'Brien - Erik Johnson
Matt Hunwick - Stefan Elliott

Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Semyon Varlamov

Injuries: RW David Jones (groin), RW Chuck Kobasew (head), LW Peter Mueller (head), C Mark Olver (head) and D Ryan Wilson (head) are out.

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Posted On Friday, 12.23.2011 / 4:28 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Lightning, Avalanche

DENVER -- These are the projected lineups for tonight’s game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

LIGHTNING
Steve Downie - Steven Stamkos - Ryan Malone
Dominic Moore - Vincent Lecavalier - Martin St. Louis
Tom Pyatt - Blair Jones - Teddy Purcell
Adam Hall - Dana Tyrell - James Wyman

Victor Hedman - Eric Brewer
Pavel Kubina - Brett Clark
Evan Oberg - Marc-Andre Bergeron

Mathieu Garon
Dwayne Roloson

Injuries: D Matt Gilroy (lower body), D Mattias Ohlund (both knees), RW Ryan Shannon (lower body) and C Nate Thompson (lower body) are out.

AVALANCHE
Matt Duchene - Paul Stastny - Daniel Winnik
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Milan Hejduk
Brad Malone - Jay McClement - TJ Galiardi
David Van Der Gulik - Kevin Porter - Cody McLeod

Jan Hejda - Shane O'Brien
Stefan Elliott - Erik Johnson
Matt Hunwick/Kyle Quincey - Ryan O'Byrne

Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Semyon Varlamov

Injuries: RW David Jones (groin), RW Chuck Kobasew (head), LW Peter Mueller (head), C Mark Olver (head) and D Ryan Wilson (head) are out.
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Posted On Thursday, 12.22.2011 / 4:38 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Banged-up Coyotes try to continue success in Denver

DENVER -- The Phoenix Coyotes didn't skate this morning after playing Wednesday night at home, where they lost 2-1 in overtime to Boston. Like their opponents tonight, the Colorado Avalanche, the Coyotes have lost a number of players to injuries, including goalie Mike Smith (groin) and center Martin Hanzal (head).

The Coyotes are in 11th place in the West with 40 points, one point behind eighth-place Dallas. The Avalanche are in 12th place with 39 points.

The Coyotes have won the last three meetings with the Avalanche at the Pepsi Center by the combined score of 11-3. Phoenix defeated Colorado 4-1 on Nov. 2.

Jason LaBarbera has started four consecutive games in goal for the Coyotes, and he made 27 saves against the Bruins on Wednesday. He's gone 2-5 against Colorado in eight previous appearances with a shutout, a 3.23 goals-against average and .893 save percentage.

With Smith out, the Coyotes recalled Curtis McElhinney on Monday from the Portland Pirates in the American Hockey League. McElhinney owns a 2-1 career record against the Avalanche with one shutout, a 2.67 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

A four-year NHL veteran, McElhinney played four years at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. He played for Calgary, Anaheim and Ottawa before signing with Phoenix as a free agent on July 4. McElhinney went 9-11 with Portland this season with a 2.95 average and .910 save percentage.
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