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Avs Prepare for Edmonton

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
Despite going 1-4 in its last five games, the Avalanche is only one point out of first place in the Northwest Division. And with a win against Edmonton on Wednesday, the club could once again reclaim first place of the division.

“Right now with our schedule, every game is a dog fight,” said Avalanche defenseman Brett Clark. “We know we’ve let it slip away a little the last five games. Everybody has to bring their best game individually. I think if we stick with our game plan, everything will work out.”

Changing It Up
Jaroslav Hlinka skated with Milan Hejduk and Paul Stastny during Tuesday’s practice, which is a look the Avalanche hasn’t used this season. The trio did skate together at times during training camp and showed they can play together effectively when given the chance.

“We’ve tried a lot of different combinations and that’s one we haven’t seen yet,” said Avalanche head coach Joel Quenneville. “Hopefully there’s some chemistry there with the two Czechs and Paul. Milan and Paul work well together, so hopefully that line can be effective,”

New Faces on the Horizon
The Avalanche will face divisional foe Edmonton on Wednesday, marking the fourth meeting between the clubs in the season’s first two months. In fact, the game will wrap up a stretch during which Colorado faced divisional opponents in 15-of-18 games.

“It’s a good way to start the season because you know what you’ll be up against all year,” said Clark. “We battled hard against divisional opponents and now it doesn’t get any easier outside our division. We have to come with the same effort every night.”

The Avs get a break from divisional play following Wednesday’s tilt, with the team’s next 12 games coming against teams from outside the Northwest Division. During that stretch, the Avalanche will face San Jose, Los Angeles, Columbus and Nashville twice each, with Philadelphia, St. Louis, Anaheim and the New York Rangers also on the schedule.

Back on the Ice
Defensemen Scott Hannan and Jeff Finger both returned to practice today after sitting out Monday’s skate. Also, Avs assistant captain Ian Laperriere skated before practice for the third straight day. Laperriere suffered a knee injury on Nov. 11 against Minnesota.

In Between the Pipes
Quenneville stated after Tuesday’s practice that Peter Budaj will receive the starting nod in goal against Edmonton. Budaj has posted a 3-1-0 record over his last four games. On the season, he holds an 8-4-0 mark with a 2.85 goals-against average.
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