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Posted On Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 3:14 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Blue Jackets, Avalanche

DENVER -- Here are Thursday night's projected lineups for the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

BLUE JACKETS

Brandon DubinskyArtem AnisimovCam Atkinson

Nick FolignoRyan JohansenVinny Prospal

RJ UmbergerDerick BrassardDerek Dorsett

Matt CalvertMark LetestuJared Boll

Jack JohnsonJames Wisniewski

Fedor TyutinNikita Nikitin

John MooreAdrian Aucoin

Sergei Bobrovsky

Steve Mason

Scratched: Colton Gillies, David Savard

No injuries

AVALANCHE

Gabriel Landeskog - Matt Duchene - PA Parenteau

Jamie McGinn - Paul Stastny - David Jones

Chuck Kobasew/Cody McLeod - John Mitchell - Milan Hejduk

Kobasew/Cody McLeodMark Olver - Patrick Bordeleau

Ryan O'Byrne - Jan Hejda

Ryan Wilson - Erik Johnson

Greg ZanonMatt Hunwick

Semyon Varlamov

Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Scratches: Tyson Barrie, Brad Malone, Shane O'Brien

Injuries: Steve Downie (knee)

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.22.2013 / 3:55 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Kings welcome Kopitar back against Avalanche

DENVER -- Center Anze Kopitar will make his season debut for the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center.

Kopitar, who led the Stanley Cup champions in scoring last season with 76 points (25 goals, 51 assists) in 82 games, missed Saturday's season-opening 5-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks with a sprained right knee he sustained while playing in Sweden during the lockout.

Kopitar will skate between usual linemates Dustin Brown and Justin Williams.

"It feels good," Kopitar said after Tuesday's morning skate. "I just felt good all week pretty much. The last couple practices have been pretty intense and going all out it felt good. I think I'm ready to play. We wanted to be smart, but you can't baby it forever."

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Posted On Saturday, 04.07.2012 / 2:47 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 a matchup Saturday between the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center:

PREDATORS

Sergei Kostitsyn -- Mike Fisher -- Martin Erat
Andrei KostitsynDavid Legwand -- Alexander Radulov
Gabriel BourqueNick SpalingPatric Hornqvist
Jordin TootooPaul GaustadBrandon Yip

Ryan Suter -- Shea Weber
Francis BouillonKevin Klein
Hal Gill -- Roman Josi
 
Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback

Injuries: None

AVALANCHE

Mark Olver -- Ryan O’Reilly -- Gabriel Landeskog
Jamie McGinn -- Paul Stastny -- David Jones
Milan Hejduk -- Matt Duchene -- Steve Downie
Cody McLeod -- Jay McClement -- Peter Mueller

Jan Hejda – Ryan O’Byrne
Matt HunwickErik Johnson
Shane O’Brien – Tyson Barrie

Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Semyon Varlamov

Injuries: D Ryan Wilson (torso) is out   
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Posted On Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 3:30 PM

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

Avs still pushing for playoffs despite long odds

DENVER -- Colorado Avalanche players will know Thursday night whether they still have a chance to earn a Western Conference playoff spot or can begin making offseason plans.

In order to remain in the hunt for the eighth and final postseason berth, the Avalanche need a regulation win against the Columbus Blue Jackets and hope the Los Angeles Kings can beat the San Jose Sharks at home in regulation.

The Avalanche also would need a win Saturday against Nashville, while the Sharks would need to lose in regulation that night to the Kings at home. Complicating matters, the Stars can't collect more than two points in their final two games, Thursday at Nashville and Saturday at home against the St. Louis Blues.

"All we can control is what we do tonight, and it starts with a good start to the game and playing playoff hockey," said Avalanche left wing Jamie McGinn, who will return to the lineup after missing one game with a back injury. "If we do that and set the tempo, we take care of our end and hopefully everything else works out and San Jose loses tonight."

The Avalanche enters Thursday's games 10th in the Western Conference with 88 points and 32 regulation/overtime wins. The Sharks are eighth with 92 points and 33 regulation/overtime wins, while the Dallas Stars sit ninth with 89 points and 35 regulation/overtime wins.

"You can't get too stressed or uptight about it," McGinn said. "We have to be relaxed and just play our game. I hope the Kings pull it out tonight, but we can't worry about that. We just have to worry about what we do tonight, and that's getting two points."

Avalanche coach Joe Sacco acknowledged his team's chances of sneaking into the playoffs aren't good.

"I know the percentages are low, but all of a sudden if we get a win tonight and San Jose loses and they don't come out with a point, Saturday night's games become pretty important for both teams," Sacco said. "We'll see what happens."

These are the projected lineups for both teams Thursday:

BLUE JACKETS
R.J. Umberger - Derick Brassard - Cam Atkinson
Vinny Prospal - Mark Letestu - Rick Nash
Ryan Russell - Ryan Johansen - Derek Dorsett
Colton Gillies - Darryl Boyce - Jared Boll

Jack Johnson - James Wisniewski
Nikita Nikitin - Dalton Prout
Aaron Johnson - Brett Lebda

Steve Mason
Allen York

Left wing Kristian Huselius (lower body), center Derek MacKenzie (concussion), defensemen Radek Martinek (concussion), Marc Methot (jaw), John Moore (foot) and Fedor Tyutin (hand), and goalie Curtis Sanford (leg) are out.

AVALANCHE
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Steve Downie
Jamie McGinn - Paul Stastny - David Jones
Mark Olver - Matt Duchene - Milan Hejduk
Cody McLeod - Jay McClement - Peter Mueller

Shane O'Brien - Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne
Matt Hunwick - Tyson Barrie

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Defenseman Ryan Wilson (torso) is out.
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Posted On Saturday, 03.24.2012 / 3:23 PM

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

Projected lineups for Canucks, Avalanche

DENVER – These are the projected lineups for a Saturday night contest between the Vancouver Canucks and Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center:

CANUCKS

Mason RaymondHenrik SedinZack Kassian
David BoothRyan Kesler – Alex Burrows
Chris HigginsSamuel PahlssonJannik Hansen
Manny Malhotra – Max Lapierre – Dale Weise

Alex Edler – Kevin Bieksa
Dan Hamhuis – Chris Tanev
Aaron RomeSami Salo

Roberto Luongo
Cory Schneider

INJURIES: LW Andrew Ebbett (broken collarbone), D Keith Ballard (neck), LW Daniel Sedin (head) and LW Aaron Volpatti (shoulder) are out.

AVALANCHE

Gabriel Landeskog – Ryan O’Reilly – Steve Downie
Jamie McGinnPaul StastnyDavid Jones
Peter MuellerMatt DucheneMilan Hejduk
Cody McLeodJay McClementMark Olver/Chuck Kobasew

Shane O’Brien - Tyson Barrie/Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda - Ryan O’Byrne
Matt Hunwick - Ryan Wilson

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

INJURIES: D Erik Johnson (back spasms) is day-to-day.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 5:22 PM

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

Avalanche, Flames relishing the playoff atmosphere

DENVER -- Despite the intense pressure of having to win on a nightly basis as the regular season winds down in the wild, wild Western Conference, coaches and players involved in the tightly-bunched playoff race insist they are enjoying the ride.

"It is fun," Calgary Flames left wing Alex Tanguay said this morning at the Pepsi Center, where his team will face the Colorado Avalanche tonight in a game with significant postseason implications. "As a player, as a competitor, you always want to play in games like this and in a fun atmosphere. That's going to be the case tonight."

The Flames are in 11th place with 81 points in 73 games, just two points behind the Avalanche, who sit in the eighth and final playoff position with 83 points in 74 games. Dallas, Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Jose are also in the mix for a playoff berth, all with 83 or 82 points, and they all play tonight.

"It sure makes for an interesting finish," Tanguay said. "It almost feels like, with the five or six teams battling, that we've already entered the playoffs, just three weeks early. It's certainly going to be fun, and hopefully we can get some big wins."

Everybody "is scoreboard watching on a nightly basis," he said.

That includes the coaches.

"It's a great time of year," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "I tell the players, this is why you play. You play to be in situations like this. Right now we're in the playoff picture, but every day it changes. This is the biggest game to date, the last game was the biggest game and the one after this one will be the biggest game."

The Flames have beaten the Avalanche nine consecutive times, four times this season with one more meeting in Calgary on March 30 after tonight. The clubs haven't met since a 3-2 Flames win in Calgary on Dec. 8 when both were hovering around .500.

"I'm not even worrying about what's transpired in the past against them," Sacco said. "I feel we're a different team right now. We're certainly playing a lot better."

The Avalanche are coming off a three-game swing through the East in which they posted a 2-0-1 record. Colorado has gone 4-0-1 in the past five games and 10-3-1 since Feb. 22. Goalie Semyon Varlamov has won four in a row, six of seven and gone 9-2 in his past 11 starts while registering a 1.53 goals-against average with two shutouts and a .949 save percentage.

"It's not like we beat them nine times in a row back-to-back-to-back-to-back," Tanguay said. "Every game is different. I don't think it will make any difference in the outcomes of the last two games of our series."

Avalanche forward Peter Mueller was recovering from post-concussion symptoms and didn't play in the previous four games against Calgary, but he knows all about the nine-game streak.

"They've had our number," he said. "Hopefully it doesn't repeat. We're concentrating on this game and we're not looking to the past. We're just trying to figure out what can be successful against this team, and hopefully we'll find it tonight."

The Flames have gone 10-4-7 since Feb. 3 and won five games in a row before stubbing their toes in the past two games, losing 3-1 in Edmonton and dropping a 2-1 shootout decision to Columbus. Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff has gone 6-1-3 in his past 10 starts, is tied for third in the NHL with 33 wins, and he owns a 26-14-5 career record against the Avalanche with a 2.50 GAA and four shutouts.

"We've been in playoff mode for a long time," Tanguay said. "We kind of shot ourselves in the foot the last two games. Edmonton and Columbus are at the bottom of the pack, and we came out of those two games with one point. But there's so much parity. We just played those two teams and we didn't play our best game and we didn't win. That's the way it should be."

The Avalanche have played one more game than the Flames, but would move four points ahead of them with a regulation win if they can find a way to solve Kiprusoff and put an end to that nine-game drought.

"We have to do what we've been doing for the past couple of weeks," Mueller said. "It's going to be a dogfight tonight. We've been in playoff mode for the last two months. We're happy coming to the rink and it's an exciting time of the year. It's going to be exciting coming down to the wire."

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 3:36 PM

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

Projected lineups for Flames, Avalanche

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

FLAMES
Alex Tanguay - Matt Stajan - Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - Tom Kostopoulos
Lee Stempniak - David Moss - Blake Comeau
Greg Nemisz - Roman Horak - Guillaume Desbiens

Jay Bouwmeester - Cory Sarich
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
Derek Smith - Anton Babchuk

Miikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson 

INJURIES: C Mikael Backlund (shoulder), D Chris Butler (thigh laceration), LW Michael Cammalleri (upper body) and C Blair Jones (ankle) are out.  LW Lance Bouma (upper body), D T.J. Brodie  (upper body), and RW Tim Jackman (shoulder) are day to day.

AVALANCHE
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Steve Downie
Jamie McGinn - Paul Stastny - David Jones
Mark Olver - Matt Duchene - Peter Mueller
Cody McLeod - Jay McClement - Milan Hejduk

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

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

INJURIES: None.
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Posted On Monday, 03.12.2012 / 4:28 PM

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

Ducks could be without Perry against Avalanche

DENVER -- March madness is in full swing for the Colorado Avalanche and Anaheim Ducks, who meet at the Pepsi Center tonight.

Only 12 games remain on the schedule for the Avalanche, who sit 10th in the Western Conference but are tied with eighth-place Calgary and ninth-place Los Angeles with 76 points. The Ducks have 13 games to play, but they are in 12th place with 68 points and have a much tougher road ahead.

It won't help the Ducks' cause if right wing Corey Perry doesn't play. Perry, who won the Hart Trophy last season and leads the Ducks with 34 goals, hurt his right shoulder in Saturday's 2-0 loss to Dallas and is questionable for tonight. Perry didn't take part in this morning's skate.

Perry was injured when he was ridden into the boards by Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas while losing his balance. Perry attempted to return to the game but the pain was too severe.

"He's got a lot of character," said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, who felt Robidas should have been assessed more than a minor penalty. "(Perry) has a lot of gumption and a lot of everything else that's positive. He just couldn't go."

If Perry is scratched, he would be replaced by Kyle Palmieri, who has been summoned from Syracuse in the American Hockey League. Palmieri, 21, had 1 goal in 11 games with the Ducks earlier this season and leads the AHL with 32 goals in 42 games.

While Perry's consecutive games played streak (272 games) is in jeopardy, Ducks center Saku Koivu will play in his 1,000th NHL game.

"Very impressive," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said of Koivu. "I think anybody that can play 1,000 games in this League, there's a lot to be said for that. You have to be durable, you have to be consistent. Even a guy like Koivu, who went through some battles during his career, to be able to come through that and be able to finish off with 1,000 games, is very impressive. Any player in this League that can hang around that long is doing something right."

Ducks right wing Teemu Selanne could reach a milestone as well. With 1,398 points, he is tied with fellow Finn and Hall of Famer Jari Kurri for 19th place on the NHL's all-time list.

"It's very special," Selanne said. "I could never imagine having as many points as Jari Kurri. It's a big honor. He was my idol growing up. His picture was on my wall and everything."

The Avalanche won two of the three previous meetings with the Ducks, taking a 4-1 decision in the most recent game, Feb. 27 at the Pepsi Center. Colorado hasn't won a season series from Anaheim since 2006-07.

"There is an eight-point cushion now with a chance to make it 10," Sacco said, referring to his team's lead over the Ducks. "If you don't (win), it could be six points and you give them hope again. I certainly believe that they believe they still have a strong chance to get in there if they put some wins together. It'll be our job tonight to discourage those chances."

Despite the pressure to win every night, Sacco said this should be a fun time for players.

"This is why you play, to have an opportunity to get into the postseason," he said. "We're right in the thick of things with a handful of other teams. I think it's easy to keep that intensity and that level up to where it should be. We're a young team, we should have good legs and we should be excited about where we're at right now, an opportunity to get into the dance. That's the biggest thing, just to get there."

The Avalanche won't know until game time if rookie left wing Gabriel Landeskog will be able to play. He was ill this morning and didn't skate.
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Posted On Monday, 03.12.2012 / 4:20 PM

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

Projected lineups for Ducks, Avalanche

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

DUCKS
Niklas Hagman - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry/Kyle Palmieri
Bobby Ryan - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Jason Blake - Andrew Cogliano - Devante Smith-Pelly
Matt Beleskey - Ryan O'Marra - George Parros

Francois Beauchemin - Cam Fowler
Luca Sbisa - Lubomir Visnovsky
Toni Lydman - Sheldon Brookbank

Jonas Hiller
Jeff Deslauriers 

INJURIES: G Dan Ellis (groin) is out. RW Corey Perry (shoulder) is questionable. C Nick Bonino (leg) is day to day.

AVALANCHE
Gabriel Landeskog/Mike Connolly - Ryan O'Reilly - Steve Downie
Jamie McGinn - Paul Stastny - David Jones
Peter Mueller - Mark Olver - Milan Hejduk
Cody McLeod - Jay McClement - Kevin Porter

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

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

INJURIES: C Matt Duchene (knee) and RW Chuck Kobasew (back) are out. LW Gabriel Landeskog (ill) is a game-time decision.
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Posted On Wednesday, 03.07.2012 / 5:10 PM

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

Ankle injury to sideline Duchene at least one game

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene will miss at least one game with a right ankle injury that was still being evaluated Wednesday.

Duchene was injured at 5:14 of the third period in Tuesday night's 7-1 rout of Minnesota when he was tripped by Wild right wing Nick Palmieri. Duchene's ankle was X-rayed, but coach Joe Sacco said he didn't know if a fracture had been found. He said after practice Wednesday that more tests were being administered.

"All I know is it's an ankle injury right now," Sacco said. "He'll be re-evaluated today and I'll know more tonight or tomorrow morning."

Duchene and right wing Chuck Kobasew, who has missed four games with a back injury, didn't accompany the team for Thursday night's game in Nashville, a one-game trip.

"We have plenty of bodies right now and we'll just do some line shuffling," Sacco said.

Mark Olver, who has been playing left wing on a line with Duchene and right wing Peter Mueller, will shift to center on the unit. Mueller will move to the left side and Milan Hejduk will skate at right wing.

Defenseman Ryan O'Byrne, who has missed seven games with a knee injury, took part in contact drills Wednesday and will be available Thursday.

"It's tough to keep a totally healthy lineup in this game," O'Byrne said. "Dutchie is a big part of our team and hopefully he's not out for long."

It's been a difficult season for Duchene, who suffered a left knee injury in a Dec. 29 game against Phoenix and missed 20 games. He came back Feb. 22 against Winnipeg and was used as a left wing for a few games until returning to his natural center position in Sunday's 2-0 win in Minnesota.

Duchene led the Avalanche in scoring last season when he posted career highs for goals (27), assists (40) and points (67), but he has just 13 goals and 13 assists in 48 games this year. He has 1 goal and 1 assist in nine games since returning from his knee injury.

"Every team goes through injuries, whether it's the same guy getting hurt or other guys at different times," center Paul Stastny said. "We just have to find a way to deal with it."

Stastny and teammate David Jones thought Duchene might have re-injured his knee when tripped, a play that didn't result in a penalty.

"I think he just fell awkwardly," Jones said.

Stastny said a penalty could have been called, but he didn't think it was intentional.

"Sometimes it's just a string of bad luck," he said. "You just hope he's OK. It's been a frustrating year for him. It wears on you mentally, but he'll get stronger from it. We just hope he gets back as soon as possible. If he's out for a certain amount of time, we'll pick him up. When he gets back, it'll be another good addition."

Sacco has been impressed with Olver, who is fearless when it comes to skating into the corners and in traffic despite being listed at 5-feet-10 and 170 pounds.   

"He plays the game in those areas all the time," Sacco said. "He's not a big man in stature, but he plays big. He's one of those players, when he gets on the ice, the opposition takes notice because it seems like he's always a pain in the rear end. Those are some of the type of players that we need. He's been making some plays, playing with some physicality in his game. He's been real good. I've been real happy with his play so far."

Olver missed 35 games to recover from a concussion he sustained in training camp. He had 2 goals and 7 assists in 15 games with Lake Erie in the American Hockey League and has 3 goals and 2 assists in 10 games with the Avalanche since his Feb. 16 recall.

"Being my size, either you have to be skilled or you have to be gritty," Olver, 24, said. "I don't have that much skill, so hopefully I can get a little grit and help the team out as much as I can. If I have to go to those dirty areas to help the team win, I will."

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