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At the Rink: Blues at Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- Andrew Bodnarchuk will start on the Colorado Avalanche's top defense pairing with Francois Beauchemin when they face the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday at Pepsi Center (10 p.m. ET; FS-MW, ALT).

Bodnarchuk was claimed off waivers Tuesday from the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Bodnarchuk is replacing Erik Johnson, who is expected to miss between five and 12 days with a lower-body injury he sustained Monday against the Los Angeles Kings.

"We'll see how it goes," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "Playing with Beauchemin is going to help him a lot. He's going to talk to him and make him comfortable. We'll go from there and we'll see. I have no expectations. I just want him to play hard for us. We're all curious to see what he's going to bring to our team. It's for depth and I think he's going to help us."

Bodnarchuk, 27, had two assists in 16 games with the Blue Jackets this season. A fifth-round pick (No. 128) of the Boston Bruins in the 2006 NHL Draft, he's spent most of his nine pro seasons in the American Hockey League. He was at the Columbus airport Monday getting ready to board a flight to Milwaukee to join the Cleveland-based Lake Erie Monsters when he learned an NHL team had put in a claim for him.

"My bags and sticks were checked and I was going through security when I found out from my agent," Bodnarchuk said Wednesday. "He said a team was going to pick me up, but he didn't know who. I was able to get my stuff off the plane."

Bodnarchuk said he was excited about going to the Avalanche after being placed on waivers for the purpose of sending him to the AHL.

"I want to play in the NHL and I'm excited and I was fortunate to be here in Denver," he said. "They're giving me an opportunity and that's all you really want. I know a couple guys are banged up now, so there's an opportunity for me to get into the lineup and play and show what I can do. The rest is up to me."

The Avalanche (19-18-3) have gone 1-1-1 in the first three games of a five-game homestand after a 4-1 win against the Kings. They trail the Nashville Predators, who they play Friday, by four points for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.

"We have to take care of business, this is a big week for us," said center Matt Duchene, who was chosen Wednesday to play for the Central Division in the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Game. "We have to find a way to win this game."

The Blues (23-14-5) are one point behind the second-place Chicago Blackhawks in the Central Division. They've gone 0-2-1 in their past three games.

St. Louis dominated the Avalanche on Dec. 13 in a 3-1 home loss when Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov had 42 saves.

"He played great that game and more importantly from our standpoint we spotted them a two-goal lead early on," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "As well as we played that game, a lull that we had in the first period really cost us. Varlamov's a guy, if you give him two goals, he can do that to a team, keep the puck out of the net. We've seen him play tremendous hockey against us. He's a guy we have to target and make the game uncomfortable for him. When he's rolling, it really seems to drive that team."

Here are the projected lineups:

BLUES

Alexander Steen - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer

Robby Fabbri - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Patrik Berglund - David Backes - Magnus Paajarvi

Dmitrij Jaskin - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Joel Edmundson - Kevin Shattenkirk

Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko

Jake Allen

Brian Elliott

Injured: Steve Ott (hamstring), Jaden Schwartz (ankle)

Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo, Scottie Upshall

AVALANCHE

Andreas Martinsen - Nathan MacKinnon - Matt Duchene

Alex Tanguay - Mikhail Grigorenko - Jarome Iginla

Gabriel Landeskog - Carl Soderberg - Blake Comeau

Cody McLeod - John Mitchell - Jack Skille

Francois Beauchemin - Andrew Bodnarchuk

Nick Holden - Tyson Barrie

Brandon Gormley - Nate Guenin

Semyon Varlamov

Calvin Pickard

Injured: Reto Berra (ankle), Erik Johnson (lower body), Ben Street (chest), Brad Stuart (back), Jesse Winchester (head)

Scratched: Brandon Gormley, Chris Wagner

Status report: Brodziak will center the Blues' fourth line after sitting out Monday against the Ottawa Senators because of fatigue. He previously missed five games after his leg was cut by a skate.

Who's hot: Stastny has an assist in four consecutive games. … Tarasenko has a goal and an assist in a two-game scoring streak. … Barrie had two goals and two assists Monday against the Kings.

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