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Avs Aim For Good Start vs. Tired Stars

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

Jarome Iginla is familiar with what the experience is like for opposing teams to come to Denver and play the second half of back-to-back games.

The Colorado Avalanche forward had done it plenty of times during his 16 seasons with the Avs' old Northwest Division rival Calgary Flames, and it's not easy to do. It can be a mental battle as playing at 5,280 feet can sometimes get into opposing players' heads.

"Coming in here, the [Avalanche] is flying and then you start thinking, 'Oh, we're at high altitude,'" said Iginla reflecting on playing in Colorado with the Flames. "You want to get in their head. You want to get in their head early, be physical, high tempo and just try and wear on them because it's something that you can take advantage on."

Colorado is hoping to take advantage of the opportunity this evening when the Dallas Stars come rolling into Pepsi Center, less than 24 hours after suffering an overtime loss at home to the Minnesota Wild.

Despite earning a point, it was one of those heartbreaking losses for the Stars. Dallas battled back from down 3-0 in the second period and took a 4-3 lead midway in the final stanza, only to see Minnesota tie it with the extra attacker with less than two minutes remaining. The Wild won it 2:04 into OT to end the Stars' three-game winning streak.

"They had a long game last night. A bit of a flight obviously," Center Matt Duchene said. "We know what Minny can do to a team in terms of tiring them out and making them play hard. Hopefully they had one of those games last night, and hopefully they're feeling the air tonight."

The Stars are not that dissimilar to the Avalanche this season. Both have had ups and downs through their first 23 games and both have records hovering around the .500 mark (Colorado 8-10-5, Dallas 9-9-5).

The two clubs also play an up-tempo game, which can be fun to watch and play in as long as you're not the squad turning the puck over.

"I think it is going to be a quick game," head coach Patrick Roy said after this morning skate. "This is a fast team, a bit like us, they like the transition game. I expect if you're making turnovers or giveaways, it's going to open up the game for sure."

The play of Tyler Seguin immediately comes to mind when thinking of this year's Dallas Stars club. The NHL's third star in the month of October, Seguin has scored six times in his last five games and leads the entire league with 18 goals. He is second overall in points with 30.

However it's not just Seguin the Avalanche needs to keep an eye on, but also Seguin's linemate Jamie Benn and top-six center Jason Spezza.

"[Seguin] might be on the best line in hockey," Duchene said. "Benn and Spezza are unbelievable as well. Jamie is so underrated and is one of the best power forwards in the league.

"We've got to be good against them. Make them play in their own end. No skilled line in the NHL likes to play in their own end."

Playing fast, being physical and getting off to a good start against a club that played more than 60 minutes the night before will be key for the Avs. But to take full advantage of playing against a tired team, those characteristics have to be sustained into the later stages of the game as well.

"It might not always be first or second period, but by the third period if you can keep doing those things, you can hopefully gain some momentum and hopefully change the game right there," Iginla said.

NO. 100 FOR CLICHE

Avalanche center Marc-Andre Cliche is expected to play in his 100th career NHL game this evening.

Cliche

Acquired off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings on Sept. 22, 2013, nearly all of Cliche's NHL contests have come in an Avs uniform. He had played in only one game with the Kings (March 2, 2010) before making his Avalanche debut on Oct. 4, 2013 against Nashville. He appeared in 76 games last season and has played in 22 of 23 this year.

For Cliche, it doesn't matter if it is game 1, 60 or 100; it's still a thrill for him to put on that NHL uniform.

"Just as exciting as the first one," Cliche said this morning. "It's really nice. It's a good accomplishment for me, but I want more than 100. Got to keep it going, and tonight is just another game and we got to win."

PROJECTED LINEUP

Ryan O'ReillyMatt DucheneAlex Tanguay
Gabriel Landeskog
Nathan MacKinnonJarome Iginla
Maxime Talbot
John MitchellDaniel Briere
Cody McLeod
Marc-Andre ClicheTomas Vincour

Jan HejdaErik Johnson
Nate Guenin
Tyson Barrie
Nick Holden
Zach Redmond

Calvin Pickard
Reto Berra

MORE MORNING NOTES

- Tonight is the first of five meetings between these Central Division rivals. The Avs will host the Stars three times while traveling to Dallas twice. Colorado finished 4-1-0 against Dallas last season, 2-0-0 here at home.

- Colorado has played six straight one-goal games, going 4-2-0 during this stretch. Each of the Avalanche's four wins were all come-from-behind victories. This marks the first time that the Avs have played six consecutive one-goal games since Feb. 24 to March 6, 2013.

- The Avs will wear their blue third jerseys for the third time this season tonight (1-1-0 so far). Colorado finished 8-2-2 in the blue sweaters last year.

- Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado's leading scorer, has a team-high 11 points (3g/8a) in 12 games this month.

- Maxime Talbot needs two assists to reach 100 career helpers.

- Roy said on Friday that Calvin Pickard would get the start in goal tonight for the Avalanche.

- Pickard saw his shutout streak of 149:24 snapped in the second period on Wednesday night against Chicago. Technically the streak was 147:24, as he was pulled for the final two minutes of the Montreal game on Oct. 18. However, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, "if a goalie plays the 'full' game, he gets credit for the minutes of the entire game." Pickard's streak of 149:24 was the longest ever by an Avalanche rookie goaltender. In fact, it was the longest by any Colorado netminder since Patrick Roy went 192:37 without allowing a goal from Jan. 20-28, 2003.

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