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Smyth Set to Return Thursday

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
Avalanche forward Ryan Smyth will return to Colorado’s lineup when the club hosts the St. Louis Blues Thursday at Pepsi Center (Altitude; 7:00 p.m.).

The forward has missed the Avalanche’s last 18 games after suffering an ankle fracture during the overtime session of Colorado’s New Year’s Eve tilt at Phoenix.
“He’s one of those guys, it’s tough to keep him off the ice,” said Avalanche head coach Joel Quenneville. “He’s been progressing really quick since he got his cast off, and if it was his decision, he would have been playing this past weekend.”

Smyth donned a normal gray practice jersey on Wednesday, as opposed to the blue non-contact sweater he was wearing Monday.

“Obviously it’s frustrating watching. You want to be out there, contributing as much as you can,” said Smyth. “Hopefully I can bring my assets to the table and not worry about [the injury].”

A veteran of 824 regular season contests, Smyth had collected 28 points (11g/17a) in 36 games prior to his injury.

Theo in ‘08
Despite Tuesday’s loss to Anaheim, Jose Theodore still ranks among the hottest goaltenders in the league since the calendar flipped to 2008. During his 14 starts this calendar year, Theodore has posted an 8-5-1 record with one shutout, a 1.89 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage.

If history is an indicator, the Avalanche will rely heavily on Theodore during Thursday’s game against the Blues.

In the previous two meetings between the clubs – both Avalanche victories – a combined total of 24 goals were scored. The Avs earned a 9-5 win on Dec. 9 at Pepsi Center, followed by a 6-4 victory on Feb. 2 at Scottrade Center.

“Usually St. Louis is a defensive team, but the last two games have been pretty much offense,” said Theodore. “Even if it’s an offensive game from my point, the most important thing is getting the two points.”

When factoring in Tuesday’s 2-1 setback against Anaheim, Theo has allowed two goals or less in 10 of those 14 appearances, including one goal or less on seven occasions. Theodore’s 1.89 goals-against average since January 1st ranks 3rd among NHL goaltenders, trailing only Dominik Hasek and Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

Odds and Ends
Avalanche captain Joe Sakic again skated laps on his own prior to the team’s practice Wednesday and injected some stickhandling into the session as well.

“In the back of everybody’s mind I think it’s encouraging that he’s getting closer,” said Quenneville. “Right now, we’re trying to keep our group focused on the short-term picture, which is trying to beat the next opponent.”

Quenneville also stated that defenseman Brett Clark is out indefinitely after dislocating his shoulder in the third period against Anaheim.

“He’s a valuable player to us in all areas because he’s used in every scenario,” said Quenneville. “Everybody is going to have to share a little bit of those quality minutes. Guys have gotten through it when Kurt [Sauer] got hurt and Leo [Jordan Leopold] got hurt. It’s up to that crew to continue to do the same.”

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