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Friday's Practice Report

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
After two days off to celebrate the holiday season, the Avalanche was back on the ice Friday at Family Sports Center, getting ready for its Saturday match-up against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings.

Tomorrow’s game will mark the second meeting between the Avs and Wings this season. Colorado pulled out a 3-2 win in the Motor City on Dec. 15 to open a four-game road trip.

The rematch against Detroit will be Colorado’s first contest without Paul Stastny. The Avalanche’s star center and leading scorer, Stastny suffered a fractured forearm during Tuesday’s 5-4 win over the Phoenix Coyotes at Pepsi Center and is out indefinitely. Stastny notched a power-play tally in the Dec. 15 match-up with Detroit and had totaled 31 points (10g/21a) in 34 games prior to the injury.

Stastny will undergo further examination this weekend, and a timetable for his return will be set once that is complete.

“We’ll have to absorb some more responsibilities for defensive zone faceoffs and penalty killing situations, because Paul did a lot of those, as well as power play,” said Avalanche head coach Tony Granato. “A lot of guys will get different opportunities to play a little more in those areas than they have through the first part of the season.”

In Stastny’s absence, Tyler Arnason centered Ryan Smyth and Milan Hejduk during Friday’s practice.

“He’s very capable of making plays and being in that position,” Granato said of Arnason. “He’s got to be consistent. The Stastny-Hejduk-Smyth line was together the majority of the season so far, but Arny’s a guy we need contributions from. I think in that role he’ll take advantage of that opportunity and do what he can to keep that position.”

Svatos, Salei Should Return
The Avalanche should receive a boost in its forward ranks versus Detroit with the return of winger Marek Svatos. The Kosice, Slovakia native has missed the last six games after injuring his back in a Dec. 9 contest against Los Angeles.

Svatos took part in a full practice today at Family Sports Center, as did veteran defenseman Ruslan Salei (torso). Both will likely be available against Detroit.

No Gimmies
The Avalanche kicked off a stretch that will see the team play 15 of 19 contests at home with a win over the Coyotes. While the long stretch of mostly home games is beneficial because of a lesser travel burden, that doesn’t necessarily mean the schedule gets any easier for the club.

Case in point, Colorado’s recent win over Phoenix. With an especially jam-packed Western Conference playoff race (only 10 points separate current No. 4 Chicago from No. 13 Dallas), nearly every team in still very much in contention for a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Avalanche realized just that, even before it needed overtime to dispatch the Coyotes three nights ago.

“A lot of people make a bigger deal about home stretches than maybe they should,” said forward David Jones. “It’s nice to be at home, for sure, but you’re still playing a tough team on the other end of the ice. We still have to go out there and work just as hard as we would on the road.”

Granato said that T.J. Hensick will return to his natural center position following Stastny’s injury…Hensick centered a line of Jones and Wojtek Wolski in practice today…Peter Budaj will receive the starting nod in goal against Detroit.
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