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GAME DAY: at Colorado

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

  Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Colorado Avalanche
RECORDS - CBJ: 27-46-7 (Road: 11-25-4), COL: 41-33-6 (Home: 22-15-2)
WHEN: Apr. 5, 2012 - 9 p.m.   |   WHERE: Pepsi Center

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This is officially “do or die” time for the Colorado Avalanche, who are perilously close to being eliminated from Stanley Cup playoff contention. In the 80th game of the regular season, head coach Joe Sacco’s club must win tonight’s game against the Blue Jackets and hope for some assistance from the teams ahead of them.

Colorado is coming off a six-day break between games, having won last Friday night against the Calgary Flames. They have exhausted their games-in-hand over other playoff-contending clubs and now need an unlikely combination of events to go their way in order to have a chance. The Avalanche could be eliminated tonight, regardless of result: if the San Jose Sharks earn a point against in-state rival Los Angeles, Colorado is officially out of the race.

They have had trouble against the Blue Jackets lately, dropping a 2-0 decision at Pepsi Center back in early March despite winning both previous games in the season series at Nationwide Arena. Colorado has relied heavily on goaltender Semyon Varlamov to stay afloat in the race for eighth place, and the young Russian netminder will start between the pipes tonight. For Columbus, it is possible that Steve Mason makes a return to the net after missing four games with an upper-body injury. Interim head coach Todd Richards stated his desire to get Mason in net for one of the final two games of the season, with Allen York starting the other.

Tonight’s game figures to be a goaltending duel, much like the last meeting was at Pepsi Center. The Blue Jackets have won three of their last four games coming in, while the Avalanche have sputtered since flirting with the playoff bar a few weeks ago. Since defeating the Flames on Mar. 20 at home, Colorado is just 1-3-1 and now looking at a steep hill to climb in order to taste the postseason.

Nash (27) Landeskog (22)
Prospal (36) O'Reilly (37)
Nash (56) O'Reilly (55)
Dorsett (218) McLeod (159)
MacKenzie (+4) Landeskog (+23)
Mason (14-26-3)
Varlamov (26-23-3)
York (2.30) Giguere (2.15)
York (.920) Giguere (.923)
• The Blue Jackets wrapped up a stretch of playing five of six at home last Friday vs. Florida. Tonight’s game will close out a three-game road trip that began in St. Louis Saturday and included a stop at Phoenix on Tuesday. Columbus has gone 14-14-1 the last 29 games after posting a 4-15-2 mark the previous 21 outings.

•LW Vinny Prospal has points in five of the last seven games, including scoring his 15th goal of the season Mar. 31 at St. Louis. The goal gives him goals in five of the last 10 games after he was held to two goals the previous 29 games. He has 3-3-6 the last seven games, while collecting 6-15-21 the last 30 games after being held to 2-5-7 the previous 21 games.

• D Jack Johnson has points in eight of the last 16 games, including an assist Mar. 31 at St. Louis. He has 3-7-10 the last 16 games, including three multi-point games, while playing 24-plus minutes in 15-straight games. He set a franchise record playing 31:25 Mar. 26 at Detroit. Two nights later he broke that record by playing 32:16 vs. the Red Wings.


D - #6

• Acquired in a blockbuster trade with the St. Louis Blues last season, Johnson is beginning to mature into the top-pair defenseman many saw him as when drafted No. 1 overall in 2006. The former Minnesota Golden Gopher is Colorado’s top-scoring defenseman and averages nearly 21 minutes per game in TOI.

D Radek Martinek (concussion); out for the season
LW Kristian Huselius (lower body); indefinitely
D Marc Methot (jaw); indefinitely
D Fedor Tyutin (hand); indefinitely
G Curtis Sanford (lower body); indefinitely
D John Moore (lower body); day-to-day
C Derek MacKenzie (upper body); indefinitely

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