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Morning Skate Report: March 20

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

Having better starts to games was the hot topic among Avalanche players after this morning’s skate, and they will need to do just that if they want to pick up the win tonight against the Dallas Stars at Pepsi Center.

“You’re putting yourself behind the eight ball right away and your playing catch-up the rest of the game,” said Matt Duchene. “We’ve come back from some deficits and won some games, but we are doing it way too much.”

Tonight’s game (7:30 p.m., Altitude) will be the last of a three-game homestand for Colorado and the first of a home-and-home series with Dallas. The Avs have lost the previous two games on the homestand, falling 6-4 to Minnesota on Saturday and 5-2 to Chicago on Monday.

In both games, Colorado came out flying on the ice but was unable to get the contests’ first goals.

“The last few games we have been ready to play, been ready at the start. I think it is just mental errors early,” Duchene said. “We just have to be a littler sharper mentally. The energy and effort is there. I think it is just the mental part. I think if we can get that at the start tonight, hopefully we can jump out to a lead.”

Despite being down early, Colorado has done a good job of attempting to comeback from the early deficits. Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog scored goals in both games to get Colorado back to within one tally, but each time the Avs haven’t been able to get another one to even the score.

“We can’t keep going into the first intermission being down 2-0. It takes a lot of energy out of you and you waste a lot of energy,” said Landeskog, who is on a three-game goal streak. “Coming out of the gates you have to be hotter then that, especially at home.”

Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco said he thinks his team will be able to relax more and play their game better if they can score first tonight against the Stars.

“If we can get off to a good start tonight, get a lead, play with the lead instead of trying to come back, I think you will see that we will have a better response in terms of playing the type of game that we want to play,” he said.

Avalanche Spotlight On: Stefan Elliott

Stefan Elliott

Defenseman Stefan Elliott was recalled from the Lake Erie Monsters, the team’s AHL affiliate, on Tuesday afternoon and will be in the lineup tonight against the Stars. He will replace Defenseman Ryan Wilson, who was placed on IR (retroactive to March 14) with a nagging ankle injury.

This is Elliott’s second stint with the Avalanche this year as he played in five games earlier this season.

“It’s a big opportunity and you got to make the most of it,” Elliott said this morning. “I’m pretty excited.”

Elliott is more of an offensive-minded defensman and Sacco said he expects him to provide that offensive energy this evening.

“We need his presence offensively from a defenseman’s standpoint,” Sacco said of Elliott. “Being active, being able to create some offense from the back end, make a good first pass out of our zone to our forwards – the things he does well.”

More Morning Notes

- Defenseman Shane O’Brien and forwards David Jones and Jamie McGinn will be the healthy scratches tonight.

- Goaltender Semyon Varlamov will get the start in net.

- Gabriel Landeskog is expected to appear in his 100th NHL game tonight. He is on a career-long three-game goal streak.

- Matt Duchene is on a three-game assist/point streak (1g/4a). He has 11 points (4g/7a) in his last six games and 12 points (5g/7a) in his last seven contests.

- Milan Hejduk scored his 375th career goal on Monday night, tying Butch Goring and Trevor Linden for 104th place on the NHL's all-time goal-scoring list. His next goal will tie him with Ryan Smyth (376) for 103rd. Hejduk's 375 goals are the second-most ever by a Czech-born player behind only Jaromir Jagr (675).

- PA Parenteau has 13 points (4g/9a) in his last 10 games, which included a career-high six-game point streak.

- The Stars won the first meeting this season, 3-2, on Feb. 4 in Denver. Colorado finished 2-1-1 against Dallas last year, 1-1-0 at home and 1-0-1 on the road. The Avalanche/Nordiques are 50-42-12-7 all-time against the Stars, 27-24-8-7 since moving from Quebec.

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