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GAME DAY: Colorado

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets





The cloud of uncertainty surrounding the Colorado Avalanche finally lifted last week, as the club now has star center Ryan O'Reilly under contract. O'Reilly, 22 years old and a restricted free agent, had been playing in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League during the NHL work stoppage and was unable to come to terms with the Avalanche on a new contract, so he remained overseas.

Contract talks appeared to be at a stalemate with no real movement in recent weeks, but headlines were made a few days ago when the Calgary Flames tendered a two-year contract to O'Reilly via offer sheet. The Avalanche and GM Greg Sherman took only a few hours to match the offer sheet and O'Reilly flew to Denver and practiced with the team over the weekend. According to Avalanche coach Joe Sacco, O'Reilly is expected to be in the lineup this afternoon against the Blue Jackets.

It's a big lift for the Avalanche, who, like many other teams, have struggled through injuries to key players and have relied on depth to get them through tough times. O'Reilly fills a large void at the No. 1 center position and provides Colorado with a solid one-two punch up the middle along with Matt Duchene. Add in captain Garbiel Landeskog, offseason acquisition PA Parenteau, Paul Stastny and veteran sniper Milan Hejduk, and the Avalanche look like a club that's poised to make some noise in the Western Conference.

The Avalanche are searching for consistency in their game, and have not played well away from Pepsi Center this season. Colorado is 6-2-1 on home ice but just 2-6-2 on the road, and as they embark on a three-game road trip through the midwest this week, bringing their "home" game on the plane with them is going to be key. After today's game at Nationwide Arena, the Avalanche play a back-to-back set beginning Tuesday night in Detroit and then the following night in Chicago.

Semyon Varlamov has been the clear-cut No. 1 goaltender for the Avalanche, starting all but three of the team's first 19 games. He's expected to get the start against the Blue Jackets.

- The only previous meeting between these two clubs was Jan. 24 in Denver and it was a 4-0 win for the Avalanche. The Blue Jackets weren't too pleased with their effort in that game, and it was one of two games in which they've been shut out this season.

- Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said the club will not be making a recall from Springfield in advance of today's game. Columbus is carrying 13 healthy forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders.

- At 84.2 percent efficiency, the Blue Jackets currently own the 11th-best penalty kill unit in the NHL. Their home (84.6) and road (83.6) percentages have been fairly consistent throughout the season.

Jamie McGinn


2013 STATS: 3-9-12, 19 GP

McGinn came to Denver near last year's trading deadline in a deal that sent TJ Galiardi and Daniel Winnik to San Jose, and the Avalanche have seen a different (and higher) level of play from the 24-year-old since donning the burgundy and blue. McGinn has shown the ability to be both a scorer and a high-energy player, tallying eight goals in 17 games with the Avalanche at the end of last season.

Brandon Dubinsky (knee sprain), on IR; Jack Johnson (upper body), on IR; John Moore (upper body), day-to-day; James Wisniewski (broken foot), on IR.

COLORADO: Erik Johnson (head); Ryan Wilson (ankle); Steve Downie (knee), on IR

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