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Avalanche hope to use home ice to big advantage

Monday, 12.13.2010 / 4:34 PM / NHL Insider

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent

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Avalanche hope to use home ice to big advantage
With a long stretch of home games starting tonight against the Blackhawks the Avalanche have a great chance to move up in the standings
DENVER -- Following a road trip that started badly but finished well, the Colorado Avalanche are looking forward to some considerable home cooking during the next several weeks.

The Avalanche will play six of the next seven games and 16 of 21 at the Pepsi Center, starting Monday against the Chicago Blackhawks, a stretch that takes the team through January.

Colorado completed a five-game, nine-day excursion through the Southeast Division with a 2-1-2 record that began with three losses -- two in overtime -- but concluded with back-to-back wins against Atlanta and Washington.

"We didn't like the start, but we were resilient and we liked the finish," Avalanche captain Adam Foote said after Monday's morning skate. "It was a great time for us to be on the road trip, to build something from it, to work on our game. We worked on a lot of things with hard practices and we bonded.

"Every day you wake up, you (can) move from third to 12th. It's a matter of one or two points. The focus for us, especially with a young team, is that you're prepared on an individual game basis, on a game-by-game basis."
-- Avs coach Joe Sacco on the tight Western Conference playoff race

"We had some new faces and some young faces. When you go on a long road trip like that, you just kind of hang together. We found a way to play playoff hockey with our speed and energy. I think now it's probably the first time in a couple years that we realize this is as important as playing with wide-open energy."

Goalie Craig Anderson, who will start against the Blackhawks, returned from a groin injury on the trip and posted a 2-0-2 record while stopping 113 of 123 shots; left wing Tomas Fleischmann contributed a goal and 3 assists in five games following his Nov. 30 acquisition from Washington; and defenseman Ryan Wilson scored a goal and was a plus-2 Saturday against the Capitals after being a healthy scratch for four consecutive games.

The Avalanche have gone 4-0-1 in their past five home games and own a 15-10-4 record overall, good for 34 points and eighth place in the jam-packed Western Conference.

"Every day you wake up, you (can) move from third to 12th," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said of the tight playoff race. "It's a matter of one or two points. The focus for us, especially with a young team, is that you're prepared on an individual game basis, on a game-by-game basis."

Both the Avalanche and Blackhawks are missing key players.

Colorado will be without right wings Milan Hejduk (groin), Chris Stewart (broken hand), left wing T.J. Galiardi (broken wrist) and defenseman Kyle Quincey (shoulder). Galiardi, who was injured Nov. 9 against Calgary, skated Monday and has been medically cleared to practice starting Tuesday.

The Avalanche recalled defenseman Kevin Montgomery from AHL Lake Erie for depth with Quincey sidelined indefinitely.

Left wing David Van Der Gulik, who tore a knee ligament Nov. 9, has been activated and could play against Chicago.

The Blackhawks, on a 5-1-1 roll and sitting fifth in the West with a 16-12-3 record and 35 points, will be without forwards Marian Hossa (lower-body injury), Patrick Kane (lower-body injury), Fernando Pisani (upper-body injury) and Dave Bolland (upper-body injury).

Chicago has recalled forward Ryan Potulny from AHL Rockford. Potulny, 26, had 7 goals and 11 assists in 25 games with the IceHogs.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Monday that Marty Turco would get the start in goal against the Avalanche, even though Corey Crawford has gone 7-0-1 in his past eight starts.

"Both guys are going to play and it's a chance for (Turco) to get back in the net," Quenneville said.

Turco allowed three goals on 18 shots in his most recent appearance, a 3-0 loss to Vancouver on Dec. 3.

"It was a tough loss, but at the same time he did a good job," Quenneville said. "(Crawford) is doing a great job as well. We like the options we have now. This is a good opportunity for Marty, but certainly it wasn't (an) easy (decision)."

Turco's last win came Nov. 17, when he made 18 saves in a 5-0 shutout of Edmonton.
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Just the feel for the direction they were headed and what they're trying to do, it just felt that this is a really good thing for this organization. They've got the pieces. We can put something together and go on a run or two and be together for a while, and I'm really excited about that opportunity. The team we have here has an opportunity to win, and that's the most attractive thing.

— Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen on why he decided to sign with the Capitals