DENVER -- The New Jersey Devils will have forward Patrik Elias back in the lineup Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center as they continue their push for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Elias has missed seven games with what the Devils called "total body soreness" following a Dec. 31 game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"Patty's going to play [Thursday]," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said after the team's morning skate. "He makes us 10 percent better in all kinds of different areas. I'm sure there's going to be a little rust on him after missing some time, but it's nice to have him back and it's a nice shot of energy for us halfway through this road trip."
DeBoer hadn't decided on how Elias' return would affect his line combinations.
"We might make some tweaks," he said, adding he would dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
The Devils lost their first two games after Elias was injured but have since gone 3-0-2 to pull within one point of the New York Rangers for the final wild-card berth. They have gone 1-0-1 in the first two games of a four-game trip that concludes Saturday against the Phoenix Coyotes.
"We're doing it really to keep up with the Joneses here," DeBoer said. "Everyone else seems to be winning too so it's been critical that we've done this. We've got to continue to build on that and extend this [streak] and/or start another one quickly if we don't. I like where we are mentally as a group. We have to get bodies back and we have to stay healthy. To me that's going to be the key over the next 35 games.
"It's taken us three or four months to realize what works for us, the type of game we have to play. We had a big personnel change over the summer and we knew it would take some time to get everybody onboard."
The Avalanche are 6-1-1 in their past eight games to solidify their third-place standing in the Central Division. They've also played through a number of injuries. Defenseman Erik Johnson will play against the Devils after playing one shift in the third period Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks because of a back injury. Center Paul Stastny skated Thursday but will miss his second game in a row because of a leg injury.
The Avalanche have 11 healthy forwards and coach Patrick Roy said he would dress seven defensemen, including Karl Stollery, who was recalled from Lake Erie of the AHL for the second time. Stollery made his NHL debut Saturday against the Minnesota Wild.
Here are the projected lineups for the Devils and Avalanche:
Notes: Sislo had no points, a minus-1 rating and 11 shots on goal in seven games ... DeBoer said Brunner, who has missed 12 games, is "getting close" to returning to the lineup. "He's making a lot of progress back in New Jersey," he said.
Notes: Giguere will dress as Varlamov's backup after sitting out Tuesday against the Blackhawks because of back spasms. The Avalanche reassigned goalie Sami Aittokallio to Lake Erie of the AHL. ... Roy said Parenteau and Tanguay are getting close to returning. Parenteau has missed eight games and Tanguay has missed 33 games. Both players took part in the morning skate Thursday.