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At the Rink: Devils at Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- Goalie Semyon Varlamov will start for the Colorado Avalanche when they play the New Jersey Devils at Pepsi Center on Thursday.

Varlamov, who was sat out Tuesday against the Los Angeles Kings because of a groin injury, told coach Patrick Roy he felt well enough to play Thursday after taking part in an optional morning skate.

"He said he was 100 percent and he will play," Roy said. "I have no doubt it's going to go well. If he would be 90 percent he would not play."

The Avalanche (30-26-11) and Devils (28-29-10) have plenty of ground to make up for any chance of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Colorado is seven points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference with 15 games remaining. New Jersey is 12 points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference with 15 games to go.

"I really love the mindset of our guys; they believe in themselves," Roy said. "They're all big games for everybody. I'm sure [the Devils] want to do the exact same thing as us, winning this hockey game and focusing on what they have to do. We're both going to need help to make the playoffs, but the first thing we can do is take care of ourselves."

The Avalanche have gone 8-4-0 in their past 12 games and have two games left on a three-game homestand. The Devils have gone 7-3-1 in their past 11 games. and have two games to go on a three-game road trip.

"We know what we have to do and they know the situation they have," Devils interim co-coach Lou Lamoriello said. "Right now we have to worry about ourselves and what we have to do tonight. I haven't seen anything different than what we've seen for the last month or more. They're ready to play; it's just a question of when we get out there how we do it."

The Devils opened their trip Tuesday with a 6-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild. They've lost four of their past five road games and are 11-19-2 on the road this season.

"For whatever reason it snowballs and we get caught thinking too much rather than just doing what we do best," Lamoriello said of the loss to the Wild. "We were playing catch-up and they were playing well. Give them credit."

The Avalanche have beaten the Devils three consecutive times and have gone 6-0-1 against them in the past seven games.

Here are the projected lineups:

DEVILS

Adam Henrique - Scott Gomez - Steve Bernier

Mike Cammalleri - Travis Zajac - Jordin Tootoo

Dainius Zubrus - Patrik Elias - Stephen Gionta

Tuomo Ruutu - Jacob Josefson - Peter Harrold

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson

Jon Merrill - Damon Severson

Mark Fraser - Eric Gelinas

Cory Schneider

Keith Kinkaid

Scratched: Martin Havlat, Michael Ryder

Injured: Ryane Clowe (head), Bryce Salvador (lower body)

AVALANCHE

Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Freddie Hamilton

Jordan Caron - Matt Duchene - Jarome Iginla

Alex Tanguay - John Mitchell - Dennis Everberg

Cody McLeod - Marc-Andre Cliche - Daniel Briere

Jan Hejda - Zach Redmond

Nate Guenin - Tyson Barrie

Brad Stuart - Nick Holden

Semyon Varlamov

Reto Berra

Scratched: Calvin Pickard

Injured: Patrick Bordeleau (fractured kneecap), Joey Hishon (elbow, neck), Erik Johnson (knee), Jamie McGinn (back surgery), Nathan MacKinnon (broken foot), Borna Rendulic (broken leg), Ryan Wilson (shoulder), Jesse Winchester (concussion)

Status report: Roy said Pickard isn't permitted to dress if Varlamov does because he was recalled Monday on an emergency basis from Lake Erie in the American Hockey League. Roy said they will wait until after the game before deciding whether to send Pickard back.

Who's hot: Gomez has one goal and two assists in a two-game point streak. ... Bernier has five assists in a two-game point streak. ... Landeskog has three goals and four assists in a four-game scoring streak.

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