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Colorado Looks to Rebound vs. Tampa

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

Looking at the final score from the Colorado Avalanche's game on Sunday at Chicago, one might think the Blackhawks dominated in the 6-3 victory.

While the Hawks had one of their better games of the season, the Avs didn’t feel they played as poorly against the defending Stanley Cup champions as the score suggested.

"The game against Chicago, I think they just managed to capitalize on every chance they had," said Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog. "A couple breakdowns here and there, but other than that I think we didn't play as bad as the result showed. I think we all know that in here, and that's not going to bother us."

Despite the setback, the Avalanche has been playing a better brand of hockey as of late. The team has gained points in six of its last eight games (4-2-2) and has also won a season-high three in a row on home ice. The Avs have climbed their way back into the postseason discussion and enter tonight's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning tied for the second wild-card position in the Western Conference.

After beginning the year 4-7-1 at home, Colorado is 5-2-2 in its last nine games at Pepsi Center, a building where Tampa Bay hasn't won since March 1, 2004.

"We feel like we're playing well as a team, and we've been playing well at home," Landeskog said. "We just got to use this game to get back on track. It's a big week for us. We got two games against Eastern Conference opponents and making sure we take care of business right here."

According to Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy, part of the reason for Colorado's recent turnaround has been a combination of a solid offensive attack and strong defensive play. Even with giving up six goals against the Blackhawks, Roy agreed with his captain that it was more of the Avs hurting themselves.

"Even in the game against Chicago, we gave up six, but I thought we had good moments," Roy said. "We turned over the puck and giveaways have been hurting us. Our tracking was not sharp. You make four, five mistakes against a team like Chicago, they'll make you pay. That's a good lesson for us. We need to be consistent throughout our games, and we have to play well defensively if we want to win in this league."

Playing a sound contest against the Lightning will be key. Tampa Bay went to the Stanley Cup Final last season and has also been on a recent surge like the Avalanche. The Bolts have won three of their last four games and sit just one point out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"They got some high skill," said Cody McLeod. "They got some big guys on the back end, a big goalie. You know you're going to be in for a battle and that it's going to be a tough game."

The Avalanche just closed out a stretch of playing eight straight games versus Western clubs, including four against the Central Division. The Avs now face Eastern Conference opponents in four of their next five contests, giving them a chance to pick up points while not worrying about giving any away to teams they're fighting for a playoff spot with.

"For us, it's a matter of bouncing back," Landeskog said. "We're a confident team in here and knowing that we've been playing well. Just keep this thing going."

D-MEN INJURY UPDATE

Erik Johnson skated this morning at Pepsi Center for the first time since suffering a lower-body injury on Jan. 4 versus Los Angeles.

"Today was his first time on the ice, progress there," Roy said of his big minutes-eating defenseman. "We'll know more the more he's going to be on the ice."

Johnson's original diagnosis was 5-12 days, and he appears to still be on that timetable as of now.

Brad Stuart hasn't played since Nov. 10 because of a back injury, but he has been skating and has been a regular participant in practice for the past few weeks.

However, Roy is still taking a day-to-day approach with the 36-year-old blueliner.

"He said he had a great day yesterday, but to me it's one day at a time," Roy said. "When you have a back injury and it goes to his leg, some days are good, some days are not. I thought last week he was progressing really well, and then he had a bit of a setback. Hopefully, he'll be OK to play eventually."

IGINLA TO BE HONORED PREGAME

Jarome Iginla is one of 19 NHL players to have scored 600 or more career goals, and the veteran forward will be honored for the achievement in a ceremony prior to this evening's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The 38-year-old scored his milestone tally a little over a week ago in Colorado's 4-1 win versus Los Angeles on Jan. 4. The goal came midway through the third period as his pass to the front of the goal deflected off a Kings player's skate and in. It wasn't the prettiest goal Iginla has ever scored, but it is one that he cherishes all the same.

"A pretty moldy goal, but you'll take them all," Iginla said afterward. "I'm not picky. It felt good, and they all feel good."

He is the first player to reach 600 tallies since Teemu Selanne in 2010 and is the third player to do it in a Colorado sweater, joining Jari Kurri (Dec. 23, 1997) and Joe Sakic (Feb. 15, 2007). Currently, Iginla and Florida's Jaromir Jagr (737) are the only active players in the 600-goal club.

Fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 6:45 p.m. MT for the special tribute and on-ice ceremony. Iginla's wife, kids and other family members are expected to be in attendance.

PROJECTED LINEUP

Alex TanguayNathan MacKinnonMatt Duchene
Gabriel Landeskog
Carl SoderbergBlake Comeau
Andreas Martinsen
Mikhail GrigorenkoJarome Iginla
Cody McLeod
—John Mitchell—Jack Skille

Francois BeaucheminAndrew Bodnarchuk
Nick Holden
Tyson Barrie
Nate Guenin
Zach Redmond

Semyon Varlamov
Calvin Pickard

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