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At the Rink: Bruins at Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche still believe they are one run away from moving into a Stanley Cup Playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Avalanche (19-18-10) are five points out of the second wild-card spot heading into their game with the Boston Bruins (25-16-6) at Pepsi Center on Wednesday. They're 6-2-1 in their past nine home games and 10-5-4 overall since Dec. 11.

"We're playing good hockey, playing over .500 lately, and we want to keep pushing the envelope and pushing the bar up higher," center Matt Duchene said. "Every game's the biggest game of the year right now. We're one streak away from being right in it. We're fine, we're chugging away, but at some point we're going to have to make a push. Our home record has been good lately and we have to take care of business tonight."

The Avalanche are coming off a 1-2-2 road trip that ended Monday with a 3-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues.

The Bruins defeated the Dallas Stars 3-1 on Tuesday to open a three-game trip.

Boston is one of the hottest teams in the NHL with six wins in the past seven games and a 10-3-5 record since Dec. 13. They've moved into the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, six points ahead of the Florida Panthers.

"The Bruins are playing very good hockey lately," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "It seems like they're back on the winning track and we're going to have to be ready for them at the start of the game."

Left wing Brad Marchand, one of a handful of players to take part in the Bruins' optional skate Wednesday, will return to the lineup after serving a two-game suspension for a slew-footing incident against the New York Rangers' Derick Brassard during a Jan. 15 game.

"I'm real excited to get back," he said. "It's the last game before the [All-Star] break and we want to finish on a good note."

Marchand, who has 12 goals and 12 assists in 42 games, will go back to his regular line, with center Patrice Bergeron and right wing Reilly Smith.

Goalie Tuukka Rask is expected to make his sixth consecutive start. He's 4-1-0 in his past five games and 7-1-3 in his past 12.

Here are the projected lineups:


Milan Lucic - David Krejci - David Pastrnak

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith

Chris Kelly - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson

Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Craig Cunningham

Zdeno Chara - Dougie Hamilton

Dennis Seidenberg - Adam McQuaid

Torey Krug - Kevan Miller

Tuukka Rask

Niklas Svedberg

Scratched: Matt Bartkowski, Jordan Caron

Injured: None


Alex Tanguay - Matt Duchene - Jarome Iginla

Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Nathan MacKinnon

Cody McLeod - John Mitchell - Dennis Everberg

Maxime Talbot - Marc-Andre Cliche - Daniel Briere

Jan Hejda - Erik Johnson

Nate Guenin - Tyson Barrie

Nick Holden - Brad Stuart

Semyon Varlamov

Calvin Pickard

Scratched: Zach Redmond

Injured: Patrick Bordeleau (fractured kneecap), Jamie McGinn (back surgery), Borna Rendulic (broken leg), Ryan Wilson (shoulder), Jesse Winchester (concussion)

Status report: Marchand's return means Caron likely will be scratched and Paille will move to the fourth line.

Who's hot: Eriksson has two goals and one assist in a three-game scoring streak. ... Duchene has three goals and two assists in the past seven games.

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