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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 4:00 PM

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

Downie could play vs. Wild

DENVER -- It's possible right wing Steve Downie could be in the Colorado Avalanche lineup Tuesday night to play against the Minnesota Wild at the Pepsi Center.
   
Downie didn't make the trip for Sunday's 2-0 win in Minnesota after suffering a shoulder injury in Saturday's game against Pittsburgh, but he took part in Tuesday's morning skate and looked fine in shooting drills.
   
Downie was to be examined by a doctor Tuesday afternoon when a decision would be made on his availability. He has 2 goals and 5 assists in six games since his Feb. 21 acquisition from Tampa Bay. If Downie doesn't play, his place will be taken by Mike Connolly, who made his NHL debut Sunday.
   
"If he gets cleared by the team doctor, he'll be in the lineup tonight," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "If he's not cleared, then we'll go with Connolly. It's very good news."
   
Sacco also said that defenseman Ryan O'Byrne, who will miss his seventh consecutive game Tuesday with a knee injury, would take part in a full practice Wednesday and be available for Thursday’s game in Nashville.
   
"He's another player who has made good progress with his injury as well," Sacco said.
   
Matt Duchene, who was shifted from left wing to his natural position of center Sunday, will stay in the middle Tuesday night on a line with Mark Olver and Peter Mueller.
   
"I think we had 10 scoring chances last game," said Duchene, who has 1 goal, 1 assist and 18 shots in eight games since returning from a knee injury that kept him out of the lineup for 20 games. "The fact that our line didn't get (a goal) is a bit of a crime, but we want to keep bringing that level of hockey and put some in the net."
   
Jamie McGinn, playing in his third game since his Feb. 28 acquisition from San Jose, scored two first-period goals Sunday and goalie Semyon Varlamov, who will start again Tuesday night, made 30 saves for his second shutout in the past four games.
   
"(Minnesota) is frustrating to play against, for sure," Duchene said. "They try and slow it down and make it as slow as possible. Last game we pushed the pace pretty good and made them try and play at our speed. We didn't let them play that game they're so good at where they trap it up and slow it down. We have to have a similar effort tonight."
   
The Wild haven't had much success lately. Minnesota is on a four-game winless streak (0-3-1) and has been shut out in all three regulation losses. The Wild have three wins in the past 20 road games, but two of them have come against the Avalanche.
   
The Wild have won three of five games against the Avalanche this season and have gone 10-1-2 in the past 13 visits to Denver.
   
With goalie Niklas Backstrom out with a groin injury, rookie Matt Hackett will make his second start in a row. Hackett, 22, made 34 saves Sunday and owns a 2-1 record with a 0.96 goals-against average and .971 save percentage in six games.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 3:24 PM

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

Probable lineups for Wild vs. Avalanche

DENVER -- These are the projected lineups for Tuesday night's game between the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

WILD
Dany Heatley - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson
Stephane Veilleux - Matt Cullen - Devin Setoguchi
Cal Clutterbuck - Darroll Powe - Nick Palmieri
Matt Kassian - Erik Christensen - Jed Ortmeyer

Steven Kampfer - Tom Gilbert
Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Kurtis Foster - Nate Prosser

Matt Hackett
Josh Harding

INJURIES: G Niklas Backstrom (groin), C Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion), D Justin Falk (leg), C Mikko Koivu (upper body), LW Guillaume Latendresse (concussion), D Mike Lundin (lower body), C Carson McMillan (lower body), RW Jarod Palmer (concussion) and D Clayton Stoner (leg), are out.

AVALANCHE
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Steve Downie/Mike Connolly
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 Wilson
Matt Hunwick - Stefan Elliott

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

INJURIES: RW Steve Downie (shoulder) is day to day. RW Chuck Kobasew (back) and D Ryan O'Byrne (knee) are out.
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Posted On Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 2:44 PM

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

Probable lineups for Penguins vs. Avs


DENVER – These are the projected lineups for Saturday night’s game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center:

PENGUINS

Chris KunitzEvgeni MalkinJames Neal
Steve SullivanJordan StaalPascal Dupuis
Matt CookeJoe VitaleRichard Park
Eric TangradiCraig AdamsArron Asham

Paul MartinBen Lovejoy
Brooks OrpikZbynek Michalek
Matt Niskanan – Deryk Engelland

Marc-Andre Fleury
Brad Thiessen

INJURIES: C Sidney Crosby (concussion), G Brent Johnson (undisclosed), RW Tyler Kennedy (ankle) and D Kris Letang (concussion) are out.

AVALANCHE

Gabriel Landeskog – Ryan O’Reilly – Steve Downie
Matt DuchenePaul StastnyMilan Hejduk
Jamie McGinnMark OlverDavid Jones
Cody McLeodJay McClementPeter Mueller

Shane O’Brien - Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda - Ryan Wilson
Matt Hunwick - Stefan Elliott

Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Semyon Varlamov

INJURIES: RW Chuck Kobasew (back) and D Ryan O’Byrne (knee) are out.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 3:39 PM

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

New look for McGinn in first home game with Avs

DENVER -- Jamie McGinn will be wearing a new uniform and a new number tonight when he makes his Colorado Avalanche debut.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound left wing, who was acquired from the San Jose Sharks on Monday, has traded in the No. 64 he wore with the Sharks for parts of four seasons for No. 11, which he'll don against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday at the Pepsi Center.

"Sixty-four was a training camp number," McGinn said after Thursday morning's practice. "I never picked that number and I didn't want that number. It was just a number that they gave me and I wasn't able to switch it.  Every (previous) number I've worn has been a double-digit, so I figured I'd try this one."

McGinn will skate on the Avalanche's third line, with center Mark Olver and right wing David Jones, and he also will be used in penalty-killing situations.

"Jonesie is a proven goal scorer and Ollie is quick up the middle, so I'm excited to get going and to get to know them better," he said. "I've got to do what Colorado wanted me here for. I have to continue to do those things and I'm sure we'll jell just fine."

McGinn arrived in town Tuesday and took part in his first practice Wednesday, but still is adjusting to the mile-high altitude.

"All the guys in the locker room have warned me about it," he said. "I felt it a little bit at practice yesterday, but I felt good this morning. I'm just going to drink a lot of water and stay hydrated and get some sleep and I'll be ready to go tonight. If I can stay on top of that, I hope it will be an easy transition. But I can't use that as an excuse tonight. I have to give it my all and do what makes me successful."

McGinn, who has 12 goals and 12 assists in 61 games, is replacing Daniel Winnik on the third line and as a penalty killer. Winnik was dealt to the Sharks with T.J. Galiardi and a seventh-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft.

"We're looking for energy and for him to be a strong, physical player who can really create havoc on the forecheck and use his size and use his energy to be hard to play against, to be abrasive up front," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "The biggest thing for him is to use his feet and not get paralyzed by thinking too much; just play your game. He's got 12 goals, so certainly he's got the capability to score."

McGinn said he has gotten over the shock of the trade, but added: "Tonight will be a big game for me; reality will hit. I'm really excited to be here. It's going to be a real good opportunity for me. It's going to be a fun month with this playoff push just to make the playoffs. It's an exciting time of the year and I'm ready to tackle it."

The Avalanche have won four games in a row and are 7-2-2 in their past 11 games to pull within one point of eighth-place Dallas in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Stars are idle tonight, so a Colorado win would give it sole possession of that spot, at least for a day.

The Avalanche won the first two meetings with the Blue Jackets this season, both in Columbus, and have won nine of the past 10 games between the teams.

This is the first of a two-game road trip for the Blue Jackets, who have lost three games in a row and are 30th in the NHL standings with 18 wins and 43 points.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 2:50 PM

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

Projected lineups for Blue Jackets, Avalanche

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

BLUE JACKETS
RJ Umberger - Derick Brassard - Rick Nash
Vinny Prospal - Mark Letestu - Cam Atkinson
Ryan Russell - Derek MacKenzie - Derek Dorsett
Colton Gillies - Darryl Boyce - Ryan Johansen

Fedor Tyutin - Nikita Nikitin
Jack Johnson - James Wisniewski
John Moore - Brett Lebda

Steve Mason
Curtis Sanford

INJURIES: RW Jared Boll (foot), LW Kristian Huselius (lower body), D Radek Martinek (concussion) and D Marc Methot (jaw) are out.

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

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

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

INJURIES: RW Chuck Kobasew (back) and D Ryan O'Byrne (knee) are out.
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Posted On Monday, 02.27.2012 / 1:48 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
Jason Blake - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Bobby Ryan - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Andrew Cogliano - Nick Bonino - Devante Smith-Pelly
Niklas Hagman - Rod Pelley - George Parros

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

Jonas Hiller
Jeff Deslauriers 

INJURIES: G Dan Ellis (groin) is out.

AVALANCHE
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Steve Downie
Matt Duchene - Paul Stastny - Milan Hejduk
Peter Mueller/Kevin Porter - Mark Olver - David Jones
Cody McLeod - Jay McClement - Chuck Kobasew

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

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

INJURIES: D Ryan O'Byrne (knee) is out.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.22.2012 / 4:49 PM

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

Duchene cites Saints QB as help in his recovery

DENVER -- The Avalanche hope to get a boost tonight from Matt Duchene, who will play his second game since missing 20 with a knee injury. The game against the Kings will be his first home game since getting hurt in a Dec. 29 game against Phoenix at Pepsi Center.

"Right now my only focus is to help my teammates around me, to help my team make the playoffs as best I can," said Duchene, who will play left wing on a line with center Paul Stastny and right wing Milan Hejduk. "No one can do it alone, so I'm not going to try and be some sort of hero; that's not the right approach at all."

While rehabilitating his knee, Duchene began to read Drew Brees' "Coming Back Stronger," which chronicles the New Orleans Saints quarterback's comeback from a potentially career-ending shoulder injury with San Diego in 2005 that led to his arrival in New Orleans and eventual Super Bowl championship in 2010.

"I used it to help me heal my body and my mind, as well," Duchene said. "I think the mind healing was even more beneficial. I feel really refreshed physically and mentally, and I have a new outlook on things. I read it on game days before I come to the rink. He (Brees) is an amazing person and I think there are a lot of scenarios that are similar in terms of how we look at things in life and our sport. He's a guy based on faith and so am I. He works real hard and does things the right way, so it's good to know his story."
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.22.2012 / 4:47 PM

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

Downie to debut on line with O'Reilly, Landeskog

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche expect to be a more difficult team to play against now that Steve Downie has joined the lineup. The hard-nosed right wing will make his Avalanche debut tonight (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2) against the Los Angeles Kings at the Pepsi Center.

Acquired on Tuesday from Tampa Bay in exchange for defenseman Kyle Quincey, who then was sent to Detroit for a 2012 first-round draft pick and a prospect, Downie will skate on a line with left wing Gabriel Landeskog and center Ryan O'Reilly.

"I want to give him a shot there," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said this morning. "He's a right-handed shot and he certainly played with some pretty good players in Tampa Bay, so I think he'll be a nice fit for O'Reilly and Landeskog with the grit that he can add on that line and with the ability to make some plays."

Downie, 24, had 12 goals, 16 assists and 121 penalty minutes in 55 games with the Lightning. He arrived in Denver around midnight, checked into his hotel an hour later and didn't get much sleep before heading to the arena for the morning skate.

"It's been crazy," he said. "It was disappointing taking off on a plane (from Tampa), but it was even more exciting landing. The drive in (from the airport), it was late last night, but it was exciting. I'm real excited to be here. I had trouble sleeping, but I'll have a good nap today and get ready to go.

"I'm excited to get things going. I'm going to bring grit and play the body as much as I can. I can chip in in the offensive part of the game, too."

Downie said the trade didn't come as a complete surprise, even though the Lightning is only five points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Avalanche are four points behind the eighth-place Kings in the West. The Kings, who are 1-3-2 in their past six games, didn't skate this morning after squandering 3-0 and 4-2 leads Tuesday in a 5-4 shootout loss to Phoenix.

"I knew they were doing stuff over there, trying to get draft picks in the building," Downie said of the Lightning. "So you know about (a possible trade), but you don't. It was tough leaving there. I was there for a long time, but it's real exciting to be here and to see all these guys. They're fast and they have a lot of skill. They have some really skilled guys and it's going to be fun to watch them and to play with them."

Downie said the chance to skate with Landeskog and O'Reilly is a "good opportunity," add added, "Two great players. I'm going to complement them as much as I can, give them the puck and go to the net."
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.22.2012 / 3:22 PM

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

Projected lineups for Kings, Avalanche

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

KINGS
Jordan Nolan - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dwight King - Mike Richards - Dustin Brown
Kyle Clifford - Andrei Loktionov - Trevor Lewis
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Brad Richardson

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Jack Johnson
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier 

INJURIES: LW Simon Gagne (concussion) and LW Scott Parse (hip) are out.

AVALANCHE
Matt Duchene - Paul Stastny - Milan Hejduk
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Steve Downie
Daniel Winnik - Jay McClement - David Jones
Cody McLeod - Mark Olver - Chuck Kobasew

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

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

INJURIES: LW TJ Galiardi (shoulder) and RW Peter Mueller (torso) are out.
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Posted On Friday, 02.10.2012 / 5:35 PM

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

Sacco expects high-tempo game between Avs, Canes

DENVER -- Two teams that have been hard-pressed to score goals face off tonight when the Colorado Avalanche and Carolina Hurricanes meet at the Pepsi Center.

The Avalanche broke through in a big way Tuesday with a 5-2 win against Chicago, but have scored two goals or fewer in 10 of their past 13 games and are averaging 2.4 goals per game overall.

"We had been struggling to score goals on a consistent basis, but we always talk about the process," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said this morning following his team's optional skate. "When you do good things during the course of the game -- if you do them consistently -- sooner or later the chances that you get are going to go in. That finally happened against Chicago. I thought we played a pretty complete game."

The Hurricanes, who are averaging 2.5 goals per game, have been held to two goals or fewer in seven of their past nine contests but have managed to post a 4-2-3 record in that stretch because of solid goaltending by Cam Ward and efficient penalty-killing.

But Sacco expects a high-paced game tonight, similar to the one his team played against the Blackhawks when the clubs combined for 60 shots and plenty of scoring chances.

"They're a fast team, they're a young team, and they play with energy," Sacco said of the Hurricanes. "It looks like they try to play a very aggressive game where they're chipping pucks in and trying to chase pucks down. It should make for a good game with a lot of pace and a lot of tempo, two young teams that like to push the pace and like to skate."

While the Avalanche remain in the Western Conference playoff hunt with 57 points -- three points behind eighth-place Phoenix -- the Hurricanes have 50 points and are a dozen points behind eighth-place Toronto in the East despite posting a 6-2-3 record since Jan. 12. Carolina has gone 12-12-6 since Kirk Muller replaced Paul Maurice as head coach on Nov. 28.

"They found themselves behind the eight-ball at the start of the year, but they're definitely playing much better now," Sacco said. "You've got two teams looking for points, so it should be a good game."

The Hurricanes will be bucking history tonight. The franchise has gone 0-7-2 in Denver since Feb. 9, 1996, when the Hartford Whalers defeated the Avalanche 3-2 in overtime at since-razed McNichols Sports Arena. It was the first season after the Quebec Nordiques moved to Colorado and were renamed the Avalanche.

Avalanche goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who was a first-round pick of the Whalers in 1995, will start against the Hurricanes, who are making their first appearance in Denver since Oct. 23, 2009. Giguere on Tuesday ended a personal four-game winless streak (0-3-1) in which he permitted a total of six goals but received little in the way of offensive support.

"If you look at the previous games, our problem was scoring goals," center Ryan O'Reilly said. "We had a good backcheck (against Chicago) with all the guys coming back and it created a lot of two-on-ones and odd-man rushes for us, and I think that's one reason why we did get our offense going. Our scoring definitely gained a little confidence from that. We're going to need that down the stretch. Having a game like that, even without any power plays, was a big thing for us and something to build on."

Sacco reunited struggling left wing David Jones with center Paul Stastny and right wing Milan Hejduk, and the line combined for 2 goals and 4 assists, with Jones collecting 2 goals and 1 assist.

"We played a lot together last year and we had some success," said Jones, who has 12 goals in 45 games after scoring a career-high 27 goals last season. "Those guys make it so easy to play with them. They're real good with the puck and they draw guys to them. They'll find you anywhere on the ice, so it's just a matter of being ready and being ready to shoot."
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Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres