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Blue Jackets open road trip against Avalanche

Tuesday, 12.31.2013 / 2:04 AM

BLUE JACKETS (17-18-4) at AVALANCHE (23-11-4)

TV: FS-O, ALT

Last 10: Columbus 5-4-1; Colorado 3-3-4

Season series: This is the first of two games between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Colorado Avalanche. In the 2012-13 season, when teams both played in the Western Conference, Columbus took two of three from Colorado. Artem Anisimov and Nick Foligno were responsible for those wins with overtime goals.

Big story: With 50 points in their first 38 games, the Avalanche are on pace to eclipse 100 points this season. It would be the first time in 10 years the franchise accomplished that feat. That's in the long term, however; for the moment, they'll try to add some separation in the West. They enter Tuesday three points ahead of the eighth-place Phoenix Coyotes and five up on the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild.

Team Scope:

Blue Jackets: This is the start of a four-game road trip for Columbus, which has won two in a row away from Nationwide Arena. It'll be a challenging journey, as the Blue Jackets face two more West playoff contenders in the Coyotes and St. Louis Blues before finishing at Madison Square Garden against the Metropolitan Division-rival New York Rangers.

Goals by Brandon Dubinsky and Corey Tropp had the Blue Jackets in a 2-2 tie with the Pittsburgh Penguins heading into the third period Sunday on home ice, but a three-goal blitz by the visitors resulted in a 5-3 defeat.

"I thought we played a really good game, a good enough game to win," Foligno said in the Columbus Dispatch. "Unfortunately, we took penalties and made some mistakes. But for the most part, we outplayed a really good team over there."

Avalanche: Colorado began a seven-game homestand Sunday with a tight defensive game against the Winnipeg Jets. Although the Avalanche fell 2-1 in overtime, rookie Nathan MacKinnon made sure they secured the one point with a third-period goal 29 seconds after the Jets had opened the scoring.

Four of the final six games on the homestand will come against Eastern Conference opponents. The Avalanche wrapped up a stretch of 19 consecutive games against the West with a solid 9-6-4 record.

"It was a tough stretch and an important one, and at least we picked up 22 points," coach Patrick Roy said in the Denver Post. "In our conference, those are tough games, tough road games in there, and our players deserve some credit. But I certainly would have preferred winning [the Winnipeg game]."

Who's hot: Tropp has two goals and two assists in the past four games for the Blue Jackets. … Gabriel Landeskog has two goals and two assists in the past three games for the Avalanche.

Injury report: Columbus remains without goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (groin), defenseman Dalton Prout (upper body) and forwards Nathan Horton (shoulder), Cody Bass (hand), Jared Boll (foot), Matt Calvert (shoulder) and Marian Gaborik (collarbone). It's possible Bobrovsky and/or Horton could return on this road trip. … Colorado lost forward PA Parenteau (knee) for six weeks after he was injured Sunday. Forward Alex Tanguay (knee/hip) is on injured reserve.

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