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Saturday's Rink Notes

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
Other than the lack of a morning skate, the biggest difference between an afternoon contest and a night game may be the pre-game meal.

Being the creatures of habit most athletes are, NHL players typically carb-load by taking in healthy portions of chicken and pasta before hitting the ice. Tomorrow, the Avalanche will likely load up on toast and eggs prior to facing Dallas at 1:00 p.m. MT.

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“You try to prepare the same way for afternoon and night games,” said Avalanche assistant captain Paul Stastny. “I think the only difference is the meal. Usually you eat the same chicken and pasta dish, but for early games you try to get a good breakfast in you.”

Besides eating differently, there are other positives to playing an early game, with some being mental (the preparation that goes into the game) and others physical (a longer recovery period before your next contest).

“The best part about it is that you don’t have to think about the game for so long,” said Stastny. “When you have a 7:00 game it’s always on your mind. A 1:00 game comes quicker, so you have to mentally prepare a lot faster. At the same time they’re fun to be part of because you’re the first game of the day instead of the last.”

Sunday’s game will be the fourth and final meeting between the Avs and Stars this season. Colorado won the first two matchups by a combined 8-1 score in Denver, but Dallas took the last meeting by a 3-2 count at American Airlines Center on Jan. 29.

The Avalanche will also play in St. Louis on Tuesday before returning to Denver to face the Calgary flames in a big Northwest Division contest Wednesday.

Practice Notes
After giving his squad the day off yesterday, Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco employed the same forward combinations at Saturday’s practice that he used in Thursday’s 3-0 victory over Florida...Sacco said he has yet to make a decision on whether Kyle Quincey will return to the Avalanche’s lineup tomorrow…Ruslan Salei skated on his own after practice, but won’t make the trip…Craig Anderson will start in goal Sunday.

Pressure-Packed Stretch Run
For most teams in the Western Conference, a berth in the postseason is still far from guaranteed.

With each club having between 14-to-16 regular season contests remaining, no team in the Western Conference has officially clinched a playoff spot. San Jose (95 points) and Chicago (93) have healthy leads atop their respective divisions, but from there the picture gets a little murkier.

Colorado continues to occupy the No. 6 spot with 82 points, but the separation between the No. 3 seed Vancouver (85 points) and the No. 9 seed Detroit (76 points) remains minimal. With seven teams separated by only nine points, every game seemingly feels like a must-win.

“Since the lockout, it’s been this way every year,” said Stastny. “I think by the time you get to the last 10 games of the season you’ll start to see some separation. This time of the year you know it’s going to be a tight race from fourth or fifth place all the way down to 10th or 11th place.”
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