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Rink Notes: Avs Face Another Eastern Foe

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche returns to Pepsi Center on Wednesday for a home game against the New York Islanders before heading out on their longest remaining road trip of the season – a three-game swing through Carolina, Buffalo and Calgary.

Wednesday’s game will be Colorado’s 12th contest against an Eastern Conference foe this season. The Avs have posted an 8-2-1 mark against the East, while the Islanders are 2-4-0 against clubs from the Western Conference this year.

“Maybe sometimes you get up a little more for them because you don’t see those guys too often, but there’s no secret formula for why we’re playing so well against the East,” said Avalanche assistant captain Paul Stastny.

The Avalanche came away with four of a possible six points during its recent road trip, and a good chunk of that success can be attributed to the club’s balanced scoring. During the road swing Colorado scored a total of nine goals, with eight different players recording at least one tally (Brandon Yip is the only player with more than one following his two-goal performance against Detroit).

“That’s what’s made us a good team. Throughout the year a lot of the lines have been consistent and at least getting chances,” said Stastny. “We’ve been deep enough this year that we’ve had a lot of scoring from a lot of different players.”

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Clark To Have Procedure
Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco confirmed after the skate that Craig Anderson will start in goal on Wednesday.

Sacco also noted that defenseman Brett Clark will not be available to play against the Islanders despite practicing this morning while wearing a full shield.

“Clarky met with our doctors yesterday morning and he’s going to have a procedure done tomorrow morning on his jaw/cheekbone,” said Sacco. “He was able to practice today. It’s only going to keep him out a few days, but he won’t be available tomorrow night.”

The blueliner was struck in the face by a puck during the Avalanche’s Dec. 30 contest in Ottawa and left the game, only to return shortly thereafter. Clark also played on Dec. 31 in Detroit but sat out Saturday’s 3-2 win in Columbus.

The Other Side
On Monday we covered the familiarity Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly have with Islanders’ rookie John Tavares. While the most buzz-worthy subplot of Wednesday’s game will be the top two forwards from the 2009 Entry Draft going head-to-head for the first time as pros, the story of New York’s resurgence is just as interesting.

After finishing the 2008-09 campaign with a league-low 61 points (26-47-9), the Islanders have quietly put together a solid season. With a 17-18-8 record through 43 games, New York currently ranks 11th in the Eastern Conference with 42 points.

Part of the team’s success is the impact of Tavares, as the highly-touted rookie is tied for the team lead in goals (16), assists (12) and points (28). But Tavares is far from the only young player making an impact for an up-and-coming Islanders squad.

Matt Moulson, who appeared in a total of 29 games the past two seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, has mirrored Tavares’ offensive stats. Kyle Okposo, the seventh overall pick in 2006, ranks third on the team in scoring with 27 points (6g/21a). Add in the contribution of other youngsters, including 25-year-old Frans Nielsen and 20-year-old Josh Bailey, and the future is starting to look up on Long Island.

“I think both teams are similar in that we both have a lot of young players in our lineups,” said Sacco. “They have a heralded player in Tavares, as we have some of our own here in Colorado. It should make for an exciting game.”
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