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Duchene, Landeskog Out Of Lineup In Dallas

AJ Greer Will Fill In

by Ryan Boulding @rboulding /

DALLAS--Although the Colorado Avalanche has yet to reach the 20-game mark this season, the team has certainly dealt with its fair share of adversity to this point.

Goalscoring has come at a premium lately, consistency has been a struggle and Matt Duchene, the squad's leading producer, was sidelined for Colorado's past two games with concussion-like symptoms.

While Duchene remains out for Thursday's contest at the Dallas Stars, the club announced this morning that captain Gabriel Landeskog also won't play.

"He's got a lower-body injury, so he is day-to-day as well for right now," head coach Jared Bednar said following morning skate at American Airlines Center. "We're not really sure of the status of him moving forward. Right now, he didn't make the trip, so he isn't in tonight.

"He's back home getting treatment. He was at a doctor's appointment when we were leaving, so he was probably questionable. Knew he was going to be out today and then questionable moving forward. We want to see how he progresses, and we'll bring him with us if he is ready to go."

Video: Coach Bednar's pregame press conference

Landeskog is tied for second on the team in points (eight), and has been playing on the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. Rookie forward AJ Greer, who was recalled from the San Antonio Rampage on Wednesday, will take Landeskog's spot on the wing.

"MacK has been skating real well. I thought MacK was driving the length of the ice last game. He was funneling pucks to the net. AJ is a guy that can stay with him," Bednar said. "He skated real well in the first game as well… He was responsible defensively, so we know they're going to see a tough line here tonight in Dallas.

"[The Stars are] a four-line team. So put him up there and put a responsible guy on that line as well with [Andreas] Martinsen, so they can defend and go in and out of the zone. I like the way all three of those guys have played, and AJ especially in his first game. We want to give him an opportunity here."

Greer made his NHL debut on Sunday in a 2-0 loss to the Boston Bruins and was one of the bright spots in the game. He had two shots and one takeaway in 16:34 of playing time while skating on the Avalanche's second line with Rene Bourque and Carl Soderberg.

Video: AJ Greer returns to the Avalanche

"It was unbelievable. It's surprising how far I've come in a year, coming from Boston University, not really knowing where my hockey career was going to end up and kind of making a big, risky move going to the Q, and just never looking back," Greer said of his path to his first game. "Just kept working hard every day. I think 11 months later I was making my NHL debut. [It] was unbelievable. To know that they trust you enough to put you up against the best players in the world is incredible. It's obviously way better than you think. You dream about your first NHL game and how it is, but it was better than what I expected. It's the best feeling in the world."

Joining Colorado on the road was a bit easier for the 19-year-old forward this time around. Instead of hopping a plane from California while in the midst of an AHL roadie, carrying his overnight bag and gear through multiple airports, Greer took a brief flight from San Antonio.

That meant less time to be anxious about skating in his second contest, though he admitted that he's still a little tense. 

"The nerves are here and there. A little better, but not as much. I got more sleep this time, so I think I'll be ready," said Greer. "I don't think it is going to be different at all. I'm going to bring that same excitement to the game. It's the NHL. It's something I've dreamed about my whole life. So just being able to be on the ice, especially playing in the NHL for my second game is something I'll never forget again, and [I'll] kind of learn from there and do the best I can."

With Thursday's lineup taking shape, the Avalanche's focus will turn toward making the match more of a one-sided tilt in its favor. Both clubs feature prolific point scorers, but the Avs are looking to keep the contest from becoming a slugfest like on opening night at Pepsi Center when Colorado won 6-5.

Video: Beauchemin talks defensive strategy

"We have to make sure that our forwards are backchecking hard though the neutral zone when they come up on 3-on-2's because they'll try and make it a four-man rush," veteran defenseman and alternate captain Francois Beauchemin said. "That is the big key. We have a lot of offensive skills, but we have to make sure that we're aware defensively."

Coming off of its third four-goal performance of the season, Colorado is not just looking to stifle the Stars' offense. The Avs want to keep the scoring coming from their own forwards as well.

"Obviously, we want to follow up on that win last game. It was a good response from our team, so we want to make sure that we keep playing the same way," said Beauchemin. "We had a big third-man high last game. We didn't give up too many odd-man rushes against. So that's the one thing that we want to do every night."

The top line, which features a 19-year-old rookie, a 21-year-old center and a 26-year-old Norwegian, will be among those expected to produce.

"MacK has been playing real well, and AJ we've seen for one game," Bednar said. "Obviously, we're at a spot right now with Landeskog and Duchene out of the lineup, we need guys to step up, and we feel that they can do that."

The new lines and lack of top talent means the Avalanche will have to work that much harder to put forth the kind of game that Bednar expects to see every night. The players could use this stretch of adversity as an excuse, but really they're not the only squad in this situation. So Bednar considers it a chance for his players to succeed.

"We're just starting to hit it now, but we're no different than any other team," said Bednar. "If you look at some of the big names that have come up here, especially recently over the last couple days--with Tampa and Stamkos--there are all sorts of injuries. It's part of the game and that's why you have your depth and you need guys to step up in these situations. There will be guys playing in spots tonight that they may not be used to or that they haven't seen so far this season. It's an opportunity for them. All the players want that opportunity, so they should be excited tonight with those guys out of the lineup. It's a chance to prove themselves in different situations."

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