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Projected Lineup: Avalanche vs. Stars

Colorado expects a tough game with both teams battling for positioning in the Central Division

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

Despite suffering an overtime loss in the club's last game on Friday, the Colorado Avalanche aims to build on the good things it accomplished against the Pittsburgh Penguins when it takes on the Dallas Stars this evening at Pepsi Center.

Tonight's outing against the division-rival Stars is the second of the Avs' season-long, five-game homestand, and it's the fourth and final meeting of the regular season between the clubs.

"A real good team we're playing again tonight, very similar in a lot of ways to Pittsburgh, and I thought we had a pretty good game against them," said head coach Jared Bednar when comparing the two opponents.

"[The Stars'] defense helps their attack a lot, one of the best rush coverage teams in the league. Power play is really on fire right now, so special teams and discipline will be important tonight. They're a deep team, they play their full lineup, so every one of our guys are going to be important tonight."

Dallas has won each of the first three meetings of the 2019-20 series, though the last outing was decided in a shootout as Colorado fell 3-2 on Dec. 28 at American Airlines Center.

Both clubs are battling for positioning in the standings, with the Stars (26-15-4, 56 points) currently holding a one-point edge over the Avalanche (25-15-5, 55 points) for second place in the Central Division.

Video: Jared Bednar before the Avs host the Stars

Dallas, which is on its final stop of a four-game road trip, had its six-game winning streak snapped in its last contest on Saturday, a 2-1 loss at the San Jose Sharks. Colorado is 0-2-1 in its last three games, but the team has had three days between contests to get refreshed and get some good work in with two solid practices.

"Eliminating a couple mistakes here and there and capitalizing on a couple of our chances," Bednar said of what he's looking for with his squad. "Try and get some guys some big performances tonight individually in order to sort of turn this thing around."

After having long practices the past two days, the Avs elected to have an optional morning skate today at Pepsi Center. Among the players that took the ice was forward Joonas Donskoi, who has been in concussion protocol after taking a hit to the head from the New York Rangers' Ryan Lindgren last Tuesday.

Donskoi, who skated in a non-contact jersey, missed his first game of the season on Friday, but it's possible that he could return for Colorado's next matchup on Thursday versus San Jose.

"He's doing OK, skated this morning with the group after a couple days on his own and took some contact after practice, so if that goes well we can see him do his test and try and get him cleared for practice tomorrow," Bednar said of Donskoi's status.

Forward Andre Burakovsky was sick and missed Monday's practice, but he skated this morning and is expected to be in the lineup this evening.

Bednar said he isn't making any changes to his skater alignment tonight, and the only difference will be in goal where Philipp Grubauer will get the start.

Below is the Avalanche's projected lineup for the game against the Stars. All forward combinations and defensive pairings are subject to change.

92 Gabriel Landeskog - 29 Nathan MacKinnon - 96 Mikko Rantanen
95 Andre Burakovsky - 91 Nazem Kadri - 13 Valeri Nichushkin
83 Matt Nieto - 41 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - 11 Matt Calvert
17 Tyson Jost - 37 J.T. Compher - 81 Vladislav Kamenev

49 Samuel Girard - 6 Erik Johnson
27 Ryan Graves - 8 Cale Makar
16 Nikita Zadorov - 28 Ian Cole

31 Philipp Grubauer
39 Pavel Francouz

Healthy Scratch: Mark Barberio

Injuries: Joonas Donskoi (concussion protocol), Colin Wilson (lower body, out indefinitely)

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