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Practice Report: Rare Visit By Toronto

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
Forward David Jones (shoulder) will be out indefinitely after absorbing a hit from San Jose’s Douglas Murray during the second period of Tuesday night’s game against the Sharks.

“Jones is indefinite. He’s going to start rehabbing and we’ll keep reevaluating as he does the rehab,” said Avalanche head coach Tony Granato. “That’s the one we were worried about last night. It’s going to be indefinite and he won’t play any time really soon.”

Granato relayed some good news about Wojtek Wolski, who was hobbled last night after blocking a shot, and also gave an update on Chris Stewart, who missed Tuesday’s practice.

“Wolski is doing fine. It’s a bruised foot. The x-rays were negative. Stewart has the flu, so he will hopefully recover and be ready for tomorrow.”

Finally, Granato said that although Adam Foote’s (triceps) health continues to improve, he won’t be in the lineup Thursday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Footie is progressing well. Obviously being in practice means a lot,” said Granato. “He won’t play tomorrow, but hopefully he keeps getting better and keeps partaking in practice and we get a green light to get him in the lineup soon.”

Stastny Skates Again
Injured center Paul Stastny (broken forearm) took a few laps around the ice prior to practice, marking the second straight day he’s skated. Stastny was injured on Dec. 23 vs. Phoenix and had surgery on Dec. 30. He remains on the original 6-8 week timeframe for a return.

Toronto Makes Rare Visit
Thursday’s game against the Maple Leafs will mark only the second time Toronto has visited Pepsi Center – the first being a 5-3 Avalanche victory on Jan. 17, 2006. The two clubs have squared off just once since then, with Colorado earning a 4-1 win on Oct. 18, 2006 in Toronto.

In Avalanche history (since 1995-96), the teams have faced each other a total of 20 times, with Colorado holding an 11-7-2 advantage in the series. Six of those games came at McNichols Arena, where the Avs were 4-2-0 against the Leafs.

Thursday’s contest will be Darcy Tucker’s first against his old club. The Avalanche signed Tucker as a free agent in July after the forward had spent seven and a half seasons in Toronto.

“Playing against guys that I played with for a long period of time will obviously be difficult. But as for the aspect of the game, we’re looking to win a hockey game and trying to get ourselves in the picture we want to be in,” said Tucker. “I have nothing but fond memories of my time in Toronto.”

Don’t miss this rare chance to see the Maple Leafs visit Pepsi Center!

Defensive Contributions Steady
After a quick examination, it appears the amount of offensive production the Avs are receiving from their defensive unit is right on pace with that of last year. When putting up their collective numbers through 48 games of the 2008-09 season against their totals from the first 48 contests of 2007-08, the two compare quite favorably.

A year ago, Colorado’s defense accounted for 80 points (16g/64a) through 48 games. This season, the defense has matched that total in goals (16) and is just eight assists off last year’s pace (56).

However, one area in which they have stepped up their contributions is on the power play. Through 48 games a season ago the defense had totaled 18 points (3g/15a) with the man-advantage; a total that this year’s version has topped with 23 points (5g/18a).

Much like a season ago, John-Michael Liles is leading the defensive corps with 11 points (3g/8a) on the power play, compared to 12 points in 2007-08 (2g/10a). The unit has also been bolstered by a healthy Jordan Leopold and the addition of Ruslan Salei, who didn’t join the Avalanche until the trade deadline in 2007-08.

Last year, Leopold had no power-play points while playing in just 19 of Colorado’s first 48 games. Leopold has four points (1g/3a) with the man-advantage this year. Salei, meanwhile, has totaled one goal and five assists with the Avalanche on the power play.
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