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At the Rink: Flyers at Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche and Philadelphia Flyers will close 2014 on Wednesday at Pepsi Center hoping for better things in the New Year.

The Avalanche (13-15-8) have lost two games in a row and are last in the Central Division after finishing first last season. The Flyers (14-16-6) also have lost two in a row with three games left on an eight-game road trip. They're fifth in the Metropolitan Division after finishing third last season and earning a place in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Avalanche's inability to generate offense on a consistent basis despite a number of talented forwards has been a major problem. They've been shut out six times. Not counting goals awarded in shootouts, they've scored more than three goals in seven games.

"The talent level on this team is certainly not the problem," said right wing Daniel Briere, who has gone 11 games without a goal. "When things are not going your way sometimes you start squeezing the stick. You're thinking a little too much. I think maybe there's some of that going on for us this year.

"But looking around the room there's certainly a lot of talent, enough to go around, that we should be scoring more goals. It's part of the reason where we are in the standings. Lately we've been playing a lot better defensively. We have to find a way to score more goals."

Matt Duchene has no goals in seven games and one goal in 10; Jarome Iginla has one goal in seven games; Gabriel Landeskog has no goals in 12 games; Nathan MacKinnon has one goal in 18 games; and Ryan O'Reilly has one goal in seven games.

Flyers coach Craig Berube is surprised by the Avalanche's offensive woes and hopes they don't break out Wednesday.

"With their speed and their players, for sure," he said. "Sometimes that happens. You don't know why, you can't put a finger on it. They have great players over there, a lot of speed."

The Flyers got off to a poor start but earned points in nine of 10 games (6-1-3) before losing their past two, to the Nashville Predators and Arizona Coyotes.

Right wing Jakub Voracek, who leads the NHL in scoring with 46 points, has gone two games without a point for the first time this season. Voracek and center Claude Giroux were held off the score sheet in the 4-2 loss to the Coyotes on Monday. It's the second time that's happened when the Flyers weren't shut out.

Berube has decided to tinker with the top line; Matt Read will replace Michael Raffl on the unit with Voracek and Giroux.

"[Voracek] has a history with Read going up there every once in a while with that line having a good game," Berube said. "Chemistry, good speed. [Voracek and Giroux] were getting checked hard the past couple games. I thought I'd add a little more speed on the line, a little more puck ability and things like that. [Read] has good speed and can handle the puck and make plays."

Raffl will skate with R.J. Umberger and Sean Couturier.

Here are the projected lineups:


Matt Read - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek

Brayden Schenn - Scott Laughton - Wayne Simmonds

R.J. Umberger - Sean Couturier - Michael Raffl

Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Vincent Lecavalier

Nicklas Grossmann - Mark Streit

Nick Schultz - Braydon Coburn

Andrew MacDonald - Michael Del Zotto

Steve Mason

Ray Emery

Scratched: Carlo Colaiacovo, Zac Rinaldo, Luke Schenn

Injured: Kimmo Timonen (blood clot)


Maxime Talbot - Matt Duchene - Nathan MacKinnon

Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Daniel Briere

Alex Tanguay - John Mitchell - Jarome Iginla

Cody McLeod - Marc-Andre Cliche - Borna Rendulic

Jan Hejda - Erik Johnson

Nate Guenin - Tyson Barrie

Brad Stuart - Nick Holden

Semyon Varlamov

Reto Berra

Scratched: Zach Redmond

Injured: Patrick Bordeleau (fractured kneecap), Jamie McGinn (back surgery), Ben Street (hand), Ryan Wilson (shoulder), Jesse Winchester (concussion)

Status report: Del Zotto, a healthy scratch the past nine games, will replace Schenn on defense for the Flyers. … The Avalanche recalled Rendulic from Lake Erie in the American Hockey League to play right wing on the fourth line with McLeod and Cliche. He replaces Holden, a natural defenseman. "We were uncomfortable putting a defenseman as a forward," Roy said. Holden will be back on defense.

Who's hot: Giroux has four goals and three assists in the past five games. … Voracek had five goals and eight assists in seven games before being held without a point the past two games. … Johnson has four goals in the past five games.

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