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Posted On Thursday, 11.10.2011 / 4:42 PM

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

Islanders, Avs looking to end slides

DENVER -- Two teams experiencing prolonged slumps, the New York Islanders and Colorado Avalanche, face off tonight at the Pepsi Center.

The Islanders have gone 1-5-2 since beginning the season with three wins in their first four games, while the Avalanche are in a 1-5-1 slide after winning six of the first eight games.

Both teams will start a goalie -- Al Montoya for New York and Jean-Sebastien Giguere for Colorado -- that played well in relief in the previous game. Montoya stopped 22 of 24 shots after replacing Evgeni Nabokov on Monday in the Islanders' 6-2 loss in Boston, while Giguere turned aside 12 of 13 shots after taking over for Semyon Varlamov on Tuesday in the Avalanche's 5-2 loss in Detroit.

Giguere, who signed a two-year, $2.5 million contract as a free agent July 1, will be making his first home appearance as a member of the Avalanche. He has a 2-1-0 record with a 1.98 goals-against average and .924 save percentage.

"I'm very excited," Giguere said after this morning's skate. "I think it's a great building to play in. it should be easier, I guess, to play at home although (it hasn't been). I'm looking forward to playing in front of our home fans. I feel good, rested. If there's any positive to being a backup, at least you should be rested when you get to play, and you should be excited. I feel like a little kid."

The Avalanche have scored just seven goals while losing five of six home games this season. Three of the goals came Oct. 30 in a 3-2 win against Los Angeles.

"This is a must-win for us," said Giguere, who stopped 31 of 34 shots in his previous start, a 4-2 loss in Calgary on Oct. 26. "We have to stop the bleeding right now. We can't let this go on any longer. We need to establish ourselves at home."

The Avalanche, who have gone 0-3-1 in the past four games overall, held a players-only meeting after practice Wednesday.

"We've done enough talking; now it's time to see some action," Giguere said. "We have no chance in hell in this League to make the playoffs if you don't (win at home). We had a good team meeting yesterday afternoon -- players only -- and we made sure that everybody's desperate level needs to go up a bit. Hopefully we will see that tonight."

Avalanche fans won't see left wing Peter Mueller, who had hoped to play after taking part in Wednesday's practice and in this morning's skate. Mueller, who missed all of last season to recover from a concussion, will sit out his 12th consecutive game with what the team lists as a head injury.

"He's still listed as day to day," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "We thought there might be a chance that he might play, but after the morning skate … he's not ready yet. He's still improving."

Montoya will make his first start since Oct. 20, when he stopped 26 of 30 shots in a 4-1 loss at Tampa Bay. He owns a 2-2-0 record with a 2.12 GAA and .928 save percentage.

The Islanders, who still are carrying three goalies, will use Rick DiPietro as the backup tonight.

The game also will feature a matchup between the Islanders' John Tavares and the Avalanche's Matt Duchene, the first and third picks, respectively, in the 2009 Entry Draft.

Tavares has 2 goals in the three previous meetings, all New York wins, while Duchene has none. Tavares leads the Islanders in scoring this season with 8 goals and 5 assists in 12 games. Duchene is tops among Avalanche scorers with 5 goals and 7 assists in 15 games.

The Islanders have beaten the Avalanche five times in a row and are 7-0-2 against Colorado since a 1-0 regulation loss in Denver on Nov. 16, 2001.
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Posted On Thursday, 11.10.2011 / 3:38 PM

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

Potential lineups for Avalanche, Islanders

Here are the projected lineups for tonight's game between the New York Islanders and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

ISLANDERS
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Michael Grabner
Brian Rolston - Frans Nielsen - P.A. Parenteau
Blake Comeau - Marty Reasoner - Kyle Okposo
Matt Martin - Josh Bailey - Jay Pandolfo

Mark Streit - Steve Staios
Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic
Mark Eaton - Milan Jurcina

Al Montoya will start in goal, with Rick DiPietro the backup.

AVALANCHE
Joakim Lindstrom - Paul Stastny - Milan Hejduk
Kevin Porter - Matt Duchene - David Jones
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Daniel Winnik
Cody McLeod - T.J. Galiardi - Chuck Kobasew

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

Jean-Sebastien Giguere will start in goal, with Semyon Varlamov the backup.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
     
 

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Posted On Sunday, 11.06.2011 / 3:45 PM

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

Duchene stays on wing after breakout game

DENVER – Matt Duchene, who is coming off a career-high four-point performance Friday, will remain at left wing Sunday night when the Colorado Avalanche takes on the Calgary Flames at the Pepsi Center.
   
Avalanche coach Joe Sacco sees no reason to move Duchene back to center following his three-goal, one-assist effort in a wild 7-6 overtime loss in Dallas. Duchene, who had two goals and four assists in the previous 12 games, will stay on the left side with center Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk.
   
“I thought they had a good night offensively, especially Matty,” Sacco said after this morning’s skate. “So we’ll keep it together and see how it works tonight. Matty was skating the way that he can. Once he started moving his feet, the work ethic was there. It’s certainly a step in the right direction for him.”
   
Duchene, 20, has made a habit of getting off to slow starts, but he’s taken over the team scoring lead with five goals and as many assists. Ryan O’Reilly, also 20, has two goals and eight assists.
   
Duchene played with a variety of wings while centering the second line for the first 12 games after starting the season between Peter Mueller and Hejduk. Mueller will miss his 11th consecutive game tonight with a head injury after he sat out all last year to recover from a concussion, but he’s beginning to feel better and skated this morning for the second day in a row.
   
“I thought I was playing better even before (Friday),” Duchene said. “I think it gives you confidence. I felt I was right on the verge of that for a long time and it was fun to finally have the floodgates open a little bit. It was nice. It’s too bad we lost, but there were some positives to take away offensively for our whole team.”
   
The six goals Friday matched the total number of goals the Avalanche has scored in five home games, four of them losses, and it doesn’t get any easier tonight.
   
The Flames have beaten the Avalanche six times in a row while scoring 28 goals, and the most recent meeting was a 4-2 victory in Calgary on Oct. 26.
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Posted On Sunday, 11.06.2011 / 2:56 PM

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

Projected lineups for Flames, Avalanche

Here are the projected lineups for the game Sunday night between the Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center:

CALGARY

Curtis GlencrossOlli Jokinen - Jarome Iginla
Alex TanguayBrendan Morrison - Lee Stempniak
Rene BourqueRoman Horak - David Moss
Tom KostopoulosMatt Stajan - Tim Jackman

Chris Butler - Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano - Cory Sarich
Scott HannanAnton Babchuk

Miikka Kiprusoff is expected to start in goal with Henrik Karlsson serving as the backup.

COLORADO

Matt DuchenePaul Stastny - Milan Hejduk
Gabriel LandeskogRyan O'ReillyDaniel Winnik
Joakim LindstromTJ GaliardiChuck Kobasew
Cody McLeodJay McClementKevin Porter

Jan HejdaErik Johnson
Shane O'BrienKyle Quincey
Ryan WilsonRyan O'Byrne

Semyon Varlamov is expected to start in goal with Jean-Sebastien Giguere serving as the backup.
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Posted On Friday, 10.28.2011 / 3:09 PM

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

Projected lineups for Oilers, Avalanche

Here are the projected lineups for tonight's game between the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

OILERS
Jordan Eberle - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Taylor Hall
Ryan Smyth - Shawn Horcoff - Ryan Jones
Magnus Paajarvi - Eric Belanger - Sam Gagner
Ben Eager - Anton Lander - Lennart Petrell

Tom Gilbert - Ladislav Smid
Theo Peckham - Corey Potter
Cam Barker - Andy Sutton

Devan Dubnyk is expected to start in goal with Nikolai Khabibulin serving as his backup.

AVALANCHE
David Jones - Paul Stastny - Milan Hejduk
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Daniel Winnik
Joakim Lindstrom - Matt Duchene - Chuck Kobasew
Cody McLeod - Jay McClement - Kevin Porter

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

Semyon Varlamov is expected to start in goal with Jean-Sebastien Giguere serving as his backup.
     
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Posted On Thursday, 10.20.2011 / 3:30 PM

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

Avs' Mueller to miss home-and-home vs. Blackhawks

DENVER -- Colorado Avalanche left wing Peter Mueller, who is listed as day-to-day with a head injury, will miss at least two more games, a home-and-home series with the Chicago Blackhawks that begins tonight at the Pepsi Center.

The teams meet again Saturday at the United Center.

Mueller, who missed all last season to recover from a concussion, didn't take part in the pregame skate this morning after practicing Wednesday. He played in the first three games this year without collecting a point and has been scratched the past three games.

"He's not feeling well," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "After practice (on Wednesday) he notified us he wasn't feeling well. So he won't be available to us the next two games. We'll just see how he presents after that. When we get back from our game in Chicago, we'll see how he is the next day."

Mueller appeared to have made some progress on Wednesday when he took part in the full practice, alternating with Kevin Porter on the fourth line with Cody McLeod, Jay McClement and TJ Galiardi.

"Feeling great," he said after the practice. "Just getting everything back in the loop. Waiting for my time to come."

Mueller suffered two concussions in a five-month span, the first in an April 4, 2010 game against San Jose on a hit by Rob Blake. He missed the final four games of the 2009-10 season and all six first-round playoff games against the Sharks. He suffered another concussion when he was hit in the head by an errant stick in a Sept. 22, 2010 preseason game against Los Angeles.

The Avalanche are coming off a sweep of a five-game road trip after opening the season with a 3-0 home loss to Detroit.

The Blackhawks have gone 3-0-1 since opening the season with a 2-1 loss in Dallas. Right wing Marian Hossa returned to the lineup for Tuesday's road game against Phoenix after missing one game with an upper-body injury and scored a goal in a 5-2 win over the Coyotes.

Probable lineups for tonight:

BLACKHAWKS
Andrew Brunette - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Sharp
Daniel Carcillo - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Michael Frolik
Viktor Stalberg - Marcus Kruger - Jamal Mayers

Duncan Keith - Nick Leddy
Brent Seabrook - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Steve Montador - Sean O'Donnell

Corey Crawford is expected to start in goal with Ray Emery serving as backup.

AVALANCHE
David Jones - Paul Stastny - Chuck Kobasew
Joakim Lindstrom - Matt Duchene - Milan Hejduk
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Daniel Winnik
Cody McLeod - Jay McClement - TJ Galiardi

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

Semyon Varlamov is expected to start in goal with Jean-Sebastien Giguere serving as backup.

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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 5:59 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Avalanche Camp: Goalies steal the show in Colorado

CENTENNIAL, Colo. – Overall, Avalanche coach Joe Sacco was pleased with what he saw Saturday while watching the team's first day of camp from a perch above the ice.
   
"I was impressed," he said. "I saw depth in today's scrimmages. I saw good, competitive games out there. I thought, looking up and down the roster, there weren't a lot of negative things. I liked the pace. Certainly you can see the depth in the organization; it showed out there on the ice today."
   
Sacco also liked what he saw of the five goalies who took part in scrimmages. That would include newcomers Semyon Varlamov, who signed a three-year, $8.5 million contract following his July 1 acquisition from Washington, and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who signed a two-year, $2.5 million deal as a free agent.

The Avalanche is counting on the duo to fill what was a gaping hole in goal a year ago when the team allowed a NHL-worst 288 goals and finished No. 29 in the League standings.

"I thought the goalies were good, especially in games like this," Sacco said. "There are a lot of breakdowns and scoring chances. Guys are trying to show what they can do with the puck, so there were some mistakes and some turnovers."

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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 5:53 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Avalanche Camp: Goal by Elliott among highlights of Avs first day

CENTENNIAL, Colo. Stefan Elliott, one of the Avalanche's prized prospects, scored a goal in Saturday's second scrimmage with a wicked wrist shot from high in the right faceoff circle.
  
"Me being slated as an offensive defenseman, you're expected to put up numbers," he said. "It was nice that I scored today."
   
Elliott, 20, should be used to raising his arms in celebration after a goal. He was named the Western Hockey League's Defenseman of the Year last season after collecting 31 goals and 81 points in 71 games for the Saskatoon Blades.
  
A second-round pick (No. 49) in the 2009 Entry Draft (behind Avalanche centers Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly), Elliott completed his junior career as the highest-scoring defenseman in Blades history with 241 points (82 goals, 159 assists) in 282 games.
   
"He's very skilled," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "He's very good with the puck and he has a really good, quick shot – a nice, quick snap shot – a good release of the puck. He has high-end skill. I thought as the games went on with him he started to get more comfortable. You could see the confidence. He was rushing the puck up ice and joining in the attack – all the things that he does well as a young player."

This is Elliott's third camp, and he wants to make the most of it, knowing there appears to be an opening for an offensive defenseman following the June trade of John-Michael Liles to Toronto. 
   
"I felt pretty good, first day," he said. "I was sucking wind a little bit in the first scrimmage, but the second one I started to get a little more comfortable as it went on. I remember my first camp, I was pretty nervous in practices and things. I think now you just kind of settle down and just worry about playing.
   
"My expectations are higher than in my first camp coming in. Obviously I want to make the team this year. I want to play my best and see how things go. There's a lot of good competition, and that makes for a lot of hard battles."

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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 5:49 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Avalanche Camp: Cumiskey happy to be back on ice

CENTENNIAL, Colo. – Head and neck injuries limited Kyle Cumiskey to just 18 games a year ago, but the speedy defenseman is healthy again and took part in Saturday's scrimmages.

Cumiskey missed the final 29 games with whiplash after sitting out 34 earlier games with a head injury.
   
The Avalanche is all too familiar with head ailments. Left wing Peter Mueller, who looked good while scrimmaging Saturday, missed all last season to recover from post-concussion syndrome, and 2010 first-round pick Joey Hishon remains sidelined with the same issue after getting hurt in the opening game of the Memorial Cup playoffs last spring.
   
"It's always tough," Cumiskey said of missing games. "You're sitting there and waiting and thinking about it all day. So it's awesome to be back out here again. I'm excited about it.
   
"I guess as players we have to respect each other a little more and watch the hits to the head. I'm just trying to protect myself a little more and be smarter that way."
   
Cumiskey was able to resume skating in May, about a month after the Avalanche missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A restricted free agent, he wasn't signed until Sept. 9 when he agreed to a one-year, $708,000 contract.
   
"I've been working out all summer and feeling good," he said. "I'm not really worried about (getting hurt again) or thinking about it. It's one of those things that you can't worry about or else you won't play your game.

"It was good to be out there again with the guys. I got to camp a little late so I didn't have a lot of time to skate with them before."
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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 5:38 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Avalanche Camp: A solid first showing for Landeskog

CENTENNIAL, Colo. – First-round pick Gabriel Landeskog, 18, made quite an impression on coach Joe Sacco when the Colorado Avalanche opened training camp Saturday before about 500 fans at the Family Sports Center.
   
"He did more than hold his own," Sacco said of Landeskog, a 6-foot-1, 204-pound left wing. "He was very good today. It was the first time I've gotten to see him play in live action. He's not that fancy from what I saw today, but he was always around the net. He's in the hard areas of the ice, he's in front of the net, he's in the corners, he's along the boards. He just seems to be doing a lot of the little things well for a player of his age."
   
Landeskog, selected with the No. 2 pick in last June's Entry Draft, also made some slick passes and launched some dangerous shots while skating mostly with center Jay McClement and right wing Kevin Porter in two scrimmages.
   
"Every time you go on the ice you want to make an impact on the game," said Landeskog, who wears jersey No. 92, his birth year. "You want to go out there and show the people in the stands and in the press box what you can do. I feel like I had an OK two games. First day and I'm glad to have it under my belt."

Landeskog gave the Avalanche a bit of a scare in the second scrimmage when he took a hit on his left knee and left the ice for the locker room. He managed to return after missing a couple of shifts and didn't look the worse for wear.
   
"I just got a little hit on my knee there, but it's all fine," he said. "It felt good when I got back on the ice. It's good."

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Quote of the Day

As a player, it's obviously a sad day, but to be on the ice with some of those guys and show our respect as both teams did around center ice, it's definitely a nice touch.

— Devils defenseman Damon Severson on the ceremony before game Saturday against the Senators in Ottawa
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