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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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Posted On Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 3:40 PM

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

Projected lineups for Blues, Avalanche

DENVER -- These are the projected lineups for tonight’s game between the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

BLUES

Alex Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
David Perron - Patrik Berglund - Chris Stewart
Matt D'Agostini - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
Chris Porter - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott
Jaroslav Halak

Injuries: RW B.J. Crombeen (shoulder), LW Andy McDonald (concussion), D Kent Huskins (ankle) and C Vladimir Sobotka (ankle) 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 - 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), D Ryan Wilson (head) and RW Brandon Yip (groin) are out.
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Posted On Monday, 12.19.2011 / 4:08 PM

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

Projected lineups for Flyers, Avalanche

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

FLYERS
Scott Hartnell - Danny Briere - Jaromir Jagr
Tom Sestito - Matt Read - Wayne Simmonds
James van Riemsdyk - Maxime Talbot - Jakub Voracek
Harry Zolnierczyk - Ben Holmstrom - Zac Rinaldo

Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Matt Walker - Matt Carle
Marc-Andre Bourdon - Andrej Meszaros

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

Injuries: C Sean Couturier (head), RW Claude Giroux (concussion), C Brayden Schenn (concussion), D Chris Pronger (concussion), D Erik Gustafsson (wrist) are out.

AVALANCHE

Matt Duchene - Paul Stastny - Daniel Winnik
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Milan Hejduk
Brad Malone - Jay McClement - TJ Galiardi
Kevin Porter - Evan Brophey - Cody McLeod

Jan Hejda - Shane O'Brien
Stefan Elliott - Erik Johnson
Matt Hunwick - 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), D Kyle Quincey (groin), D Ryan Wilson (head) and RW Brandon Yip (groin) are out.

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Posted On Saturday, 12.17.2011 / 5:08 PM

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

Varlamov won't face former team because of back injury

DENVER – Semyon Varlamov won’t face his former Washington Capitals teammates Saturday night because of what Colorado Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said is a “minor back injury,” so Jean-Sebastien Giguere will start in goal at Pepsi Center.
   
“It happened last game against San Jose (on Thursday),” Sacco said after the pregame skate. “It flared up during the game.”
   
Varlamov, who allowed three third-period goals in the Avalanche’s 5-4 loss to the Sharks, will dress as the backup.
   
The 23-year-old Russian had dinner Friday night with some former teammates and said he is “a little bit” disappointed not to get the starting nod.

“I will be backup today and I'm always ready to go on ice and play my game,” he said.
   
The Avalanche acquired Varlamov’s rights from Washington on July 1 in exchange for a first-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in either 2012 or 2013, after which he signed a three-year, $8.5 million contract.
   
Varlamov has shown flashes of brilliance in an otherwise inconsistent season, posting a 10-13-1 record with a 3.14 goals-against average and .896 save percentage.
   
“I’m sure he would love to play against the Caps,” Giguere said. “But you have to take the season a game at a time. As a coaching staff, you don't really care much who you're playing and what that involves. It's the nature of the business sometimes."
   
Giguere will make his ninth start of the season, his second in Colorado’s past 12 games. He has a 4-4 record with a 1.95 goals-against average and .923 save percentage this year. Giguere owns a 3-4-1 career record against Washington with a 2.29 average, but he’s 0-3 with a 3.90 average in his past three starts against them.
   
Capitals star left wing Alex Ovechkin has scored seven goals against Giguere in five games, while Mike Knuble has six goals in seven games and Alexander Semin three goals in two games.
   
“Good individual skill on that team,” Sacco said. “They really make you pay for mistakes. If you’re not diligent, if you’re not good with the puck, they’ll make you pay.”
   
Making matters more difficult, the Avalanche will be without two regular defensemen, Ryan Wilson and Kyle Quincey. Wilson hasn’t played since suffering a head injury on a hit by Vancouver’s Maxim Lapierre on Dec. 6, and Quincey is nursing a groin injury.
   
“The league obviously looked at it and didn’t think it was worthy of any fine or suspension,” Sacco said of Lapierre’s hit, which sent Wilson face first into the glass. “The unfortunate part is we lose one of our best defensemen and he’s out indefinitely. We don’t know how long it’s going to be. It’s frustrating, of course, to lose one of your top defensemen. There’s always hits around the league where you say, ‘What happened there? Why didn’t he get something?’ But the league does the best they can and we have to live with their decision.”
   
The Capitals have gone 4-4, with four wins in the past six games, since Dale Hunter replaced Bruce Boudreau as head coach on Nov. 29. They are coming off a 1-0 win in Winnipeg on Thursday behind 26 saves by goalie Michal Neuvirth and a goal by Ovechkin in the third period. Neuvirth will start against Colorado.
   
“They made a coaching change recently,” Sacco said. “Usually when that happens, the guys tend to have a little more game in them. It’ll be a fun game, a high-energy type of game. They like to skate and we like to skate and push the pace and they like to push the pace. I’m expecting a pretty entertaining game as far as that goes from a fans’ standpoint.”
   
Hunter was a second-round pick of the Quebec Nordiques, the Avalanche’s predecessors, in 1979 and he played seven seasons with the Nordiques. Hunter spent most of the next 12 seasons with Washington until March 23, 1999 when the Avalanche acquired him in a deadline deal while attempting to make a run at the Stanley Cup.
   
He had two goals, four assists and 17 penalty minutes in 12 regular-season games with the Avalanche. He added one goal, three assists and 38 penalty minutes in 19 playoff games. The Avalanche lost a seven-game series to Dallas in the Western Conference finals.
   
Hunter retired following the 1998-99 season, his 19th in the NHL. He finished with 323 goals, 697 assists and 3,565 penalty minutes in 1,407 regular-season games.
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Posted On Saturday, 12.17.2011 / 4:11 PM

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

Projected lineups for Capitals, Avalanche

DENVER – These are the projected lineups for tonight’s game between the Washington Capitals and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

CAPITALS

Alex OvechkinNicklas BackstromAlexander Semin
Troy BrouwerMarcus JohanssonJeff Halpern
Jason ChimeraBrooks LaichJoel Ward
Matt HendricksMathieu PerreaultMike Knuble

Karl AlznerJohn Carlson
John ErskineDennis Wideman
Roman HamrlikDmitry Orlov

Michal Neuvirth
Tomas Vokoun

Injuries: RW Jay Beagle (concussion), D Mike Green (groin) and D Tom Poti (groin) are out.

AVALANCHE

Matt DuchenePaul StastnyDaniel Winnik
Gabriel Landeskog – Ryan O’Reilly – Milan Hejduk
Brad MaloneJay McClementTJ Galiardi
David Van Der Gulik – Ethan Brophey – Cody McLeod

Jan Hejda – Shane O’Brien
Stefan Elliott -- Erik Johnson
Matt Hunwick -- 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), D Kyle Quincey (groin), D Ryan Wilson (head) and RW Brandon Yip (groin) are out.

LW/C Kevin Porter will be scratched. He has completed a four-game suspension for a knee-on-knee hit against Vancouver’s David Booth in a Dec. 6 game.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 4:37 PM

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

Stastny returns for slumping Avalanche

DENVER – Paul Stastny will return to the Colorado Avalanche lineup tonight against the San Jose Sharks at Pepsi Center after missing three games with a torso injury. The teams will face off again Thursday in San Jose.
   
Stastny was injured late in the second period Dec. 4 in the Avalanche’s 4-2 win against the Detroit Red Wings. He’ll center a line with Matt Duchene and TJ Galiardi.
   
“It was tough being away, but I’ve been feeling better every day and I’ll be ready to go tonight,” Stastny said after the morning skate. “I just took an awkward hit and it kind of stunned me. It kind of weakened me around my torso area. It wasn’t comfortable at all. I really couldn’t push off or skate too hard or take draws or shoot pucks for a while.”
   
Right wing Brandon Yip suffered an apparent leg injury this morning and won’t play against the Sharks.

“He’s being re-evaluated right now,” Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said.

Without Yip, the Avalanche is down to 11 healthy forwards, so defenseman Matt Hunwick will suit up and slide between fourth-line duties and the blue line.
   
The victory against the Red Wings 10 days ago gave the Avalanche a three-game winning streak and completed an eight-game homestand with a 5-3 record, but the team followed it by losing all three games of a trip through Western Canada last week by the combined score of 13-3.
   
“No. 1, we have to try and minimize some of the mistakes that we’re making, be it with or without the puck,” Sacco said. “Another area that we can be better at is managing the puck. We were playing well before the road trip. We had a nice homestand and played solid hockey – just get back to making sure that we take care of the puck and that we play with good energy at home like we were before. We started to build something before we left for the road trip.”
   
The Avalanche’s power play has been in a prolonged slump, going 1-for-23 in the past seven games and 4-for-46 in a 14-game stretch. Colorado has allowed at least one power-play goal in five consecutive games, killing off just 19 of 26 penalties in that span.
   
The Sharks also are in a slump, posting a 2-5-1 record in eight games since rattling off a 12-2-1 record in their previous 15 games.
   
Like the Avalanche, the Sharks have been hampered by a poor power play and subpar penalty killing. They have gone 1-for-25 on power play in the past eight games and have permitted at least one power-play goal in five of those games, killing off just 16 of 22 penalties.
   
A number of the Sharks’ most talented forwards haven’t been producing of late. Patrick Marleau has gone seven games without point, Joe Pavelski has one goal and one assist in nine games, and Joe Thornton has eight assists but no goals in 11 games.
   
Martin Havlat has one goal – it came on a power play -- and 11 assists in 23 games this season after collecting 62 points (22 goals, 40 assists) with Minnesota in 2010-11 to tie Mikko Koivu for the team scoring lead. The Sharks acquired him July 3 in a trade that sent Dany Heatley to the Wild.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 4:28 PM

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

Projected lineups for Sharks, Avalanche

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

SHARKS

Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Torrey Mitchell
Ryan Clowe - Logan Couture - Martin Havlat
Jamie McGinn - Patrick Marleau - Michal Handzus
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Andrew Murray

Dan Boyle - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Jason Demers - Brent Burns
Colin White - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

INJURIES: D Douglas Murray (upper body) and D Jim Vandermeer (upper body) are out.

AVALANCHE

Matt Duchene - Paul Stastny - TJ Galiardi
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Milan Hejduk
Daniel Winnik - Jay McClement - David Jones
Matt Hunwick - Brad Malone - Cody McLeod

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

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

INJURIES: RW Chuck Kobasew (head), LW Peter Mueller (head), C Mark Olver (head), D Ryan Wilson (head) and RW Brandon Yip (leg) are out.

LW Kevin Porter has two games remaining on his four-game suspension for his knee-on-knee hit against Vancouver’s David Booth on Dec. 6.
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Posted On Friday, 12.02.2011 / 3:56 PM

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

Projected lineups for Blues, Avalanche

DENVER -- These are the projected lineups for tonight's game between the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

BLUES
Alex Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Chris Stewart - Patrik Berglund - Matt D'Agostini
Chris Porter - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
Vladimir Sobotka - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak
Ian Cole - Alex Pietrangelo

Jaroslav Halak is expected to start in goal with Brian Elliott as the backup.

AVALANCHE
Matt Duchene - Paul Stastny - David Jones
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Milan Hejduk
Daniel Winnik - Jay McClement - Chuck Kobasew
Kevin Porter - TJ Galiardi - Brandon Yip

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

Semyon Varlamov will start in goal with Jean-Sebastien Giguere as the backup.
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Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 4:12 PM

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

Avs must make life difficult for opposing goalies

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche's lack of offense has become such a problem that it doesn't matter much which goalie the team is facing, especially at home.

"Unfortunately when we're playing, the opposition's goaltender has been the No. 1 star for a lot of nights," coach Joe Sacco said after this morning's skate. "We have to make it harder on the opposition's goalie, very simple."

The Avalanche have scored just 24 goals in 13 games at the Pepsi Center, so it should come as no surprise that the club has lost nine of them heading into tonight's contest with the New Jersey Devils and goalie Martin Brodeur, whose 630 wins are the most in NHL history.

The Avalanche are averaging over 30 shots per game and have registered between 40 and 51 shots five times, but too often the shots have been taken from the perimeter. Forwards haven't been doing a very good job of getting to the front of the net for deflections and tip-ins, or to hunt down rebounds.

"We've obviously had our troubles scoring at home," Sacco said. "We've been in a little bit of a slump. We're a young team right now that's having trouble scoring, having trouble finding the back of the net. We have to find ways, we have to come up with a solution to get scoring opportunities and to bury our chances when they're there."

More line changes are in store for tonight.

David Jones will move to right wing on a line with Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny, and Milan Hejduk will skate at right wing with Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O'Reilly. Daniel Winnik will be at left wing with Jay McClement and Chuck Kobasew. Sacco was still tinkering with the fourth line.

"We're playing very well defensively, we just have to find ways to score," Duchene said. "If we can get on a track where were scoring three and five goals a game, which we're capable of doing, I think we'll be able to win some games. We just have to find that offense."

Defenseman Erik Johnson (groin) skated this morning but will miss his fourth game in a row. Left wing Peter Mueller (head, groin) also skated and will sit for the 22nd consecutive game.

The Devils are beginning a four-game road trip that includes stops in Minnesota, Winnipeg and Toronto. They've won three of their past four road games and are 7-5-0 on the road overall.

Left wing Eric Boulton is expected to return to the Devils' lineup after recovering from a broken right hand. Boulton hasn't played since getting injured Oct. 21 against San Jose.

Defenseman Andy Greene, who was hit with a shot Saturday in the Devils' 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders, has a sore foot and won't play. He's expected to return at some point on the trip.

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— Martin Brodeur, after announcing his retirement as an NHL player and becoming a senior adviser with the Blues on Thursday