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Avs Look to Take Advantage of Stars

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

Tonight seems like the perfect scenario for the Colorado Avalanche to get back on track.

The Avs will look to break their four-game slide during a Valentine's date with the Dallas Stars, a team that is playing the second of back-to-back contests and will be without a few of their top scorers.

Dallas defeated the Florida Panthers 2-0 on Friday night in the Lone Star State, but the win came with a price as Tyler Seguin, Patrick Eaves and Ales Hemsky all left the contest with injuries. The trio won't play in tonight's contest at Pepsi Center, or in the near future.

Seguin's injury might be the biggest blow for the Stars as he is among the league's leaders with 29 goals and 59 points this season. It is being reported that he'll be out 3-6 weeks with a knee injury. The team placed Seguin and Eaves on injured reserve earlier in the day.

Colorado, like Dallas, is in the hunt for a postseason spot and has had its own injury problems this season. The Avs have lost 296 man games to injuries, with Patrick Bordeleau (53 games, back and knee) and Jamie McGinn (36 games, back) missing the majority of the campaign and Jesse Winchester having yet to play in a regular season game for the Avs after suffering a head injury in the preseason.

"If there is a team that knows how it feels to play without your top players, it's us," Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said of the Stars' current situation. "At the same time, they're in a battle for a playoff spot like us. [They are] certainly going to come in and try to play a good game. We're going to have to be ready. We need to worry about ourselves, and make sure we play some good hockey."

Roy's mentality of not worrying about what Dallas does and instead focusing on what his team can control was a sentiment that was repeated throughout the Avalanche locker room after morning skate.

"The approach is going to be the same," said forward Maxime Talbot. "We know the importance of the two points. We know we're battling against them for a playoff spot. It's about us. It's about our team. It's about our preparation, and we have to be ready."

While losing Seguin, Eaves and Hemsky changes some of the dynamics of the Stars' team, the club is still dangerous offensively. Dallas captain Jamie Benn has scored 50 points this season, Jason Spezza has recorded 43 points, and defenseman John Klingberg has had a surprising rookie campaign with 10 goals and 29 points in 41 games.

Don't expect any major changes from the Stars, as they have plenty of offensive talent throughout the lineup, ranking second in the NHL in goals per game at 3.13. The only real change is the roster additions of Travis Morin and Brett Ritchie, who were recalled from the American Hockey League this morning to take the place of Seguin and Eaves.

"Sometimes when guys go down, other guys are asked to step up," Talbot said. "I think that is what is going to happen with them. It's not because a couple of their best players are out that they are not going to come here, and work and try to get two points."

This is the fourth of five meetings this season between the two Central Division rivals that are up against each other in the playoff race. Dallas is just three points out of a wild card spot while Colorado is eight points out.

The Avs have won each of the three previous games against the Stars this season, but all the contests were tight with Colorado having to come back each time to pull out the win. In their last meeting on Feb. 3, Tyson Barrie tied the game with 20 seconds left before Talbot won it in an 11-round shootout.

This time, the Avalanche looks to get ahead and stay there for the entire game.

"Any team on a back-to-back, it's huge to get on them right away," Holden said. "Maybe push the pace of the game. Maybe wear them down a little bit, and especially against Dallas. They always have good starts, and they have come out and got leads on us before. We just need to focus on our start and keep rolling from there."

SLIGHT LINE SHUFFLE

Avalanche coach Patrick Roy will make a slight adjustment to his lineup this evening.

Maxime Talbot will go to one of the top lines with center Matt Duchene and Jarome Iginla, while Alex Tanguay will move to the John Mitchell-centered line that has Dennis Everberg on the right side. The move will add more of a checking mentality to Duchene and Iginla's line while giving more offensive upside to Mitchell and Everberg's group.

Colorado's other scoring line of center Ryan O'Reilly, left wing Gabriel Landeskog and right wing Nathan MacKinnon will remain the same.

The only other lineup change is on the fourth line. Paul Carey, who was called up from Lake Erie late Friday, will play with center Marc-Andre Cliche and left wing Cody McLeod.

On defense, the pairings will remain the same: Jan Hejda and Zach Redmond, Nick Holden and Brad Stuart, and Tyson Barrie and Nate Guenin.

Daniel Briere and Stefan Elliott are scheduled to be healthy scratches, while Semyon Varlamov will make his 12th consecutive start in net.

PROJECTED LINEUP

Maxime TalbotMatt DucheneJarome Iginla
Gabriel Landeskog
Ryan O'ReillyNathan MacKinnon
Alex Tanguay
John MitchellDennis Everberg
Cody McLeod
Marc-Andre ClichePaul Carey

Jan HejdaZach Redmond
Nick Holden
Brad Stuart
Nate Guenin
Tyson Barrie

Semyon Varlamov
Reto Berra

Scratches: Daniel Briere and Stefan Elliott

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