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At the Rink: Islanders at Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski / NHL.com

DENVER -- Winning on home ice has been a major problem for the Colorado Avalanche, who hope to bring some of their road magic to Pepsi Center on Thursday when they play the New York Islanders to open a four-game homestand (9 p.m. ET; MSG+ 2, ALT).

The Avalanche (15-16-1) are coming off a road sweep of three Central Division rivals -- the Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks -- and have won six of their past eight games overall, but are 4-7-1 at home.

"Now it's about what we're going to do on this homestand," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "We had a good meeting this morning, talking about how we want to play the game and the approach that we want to have. Basically, we want the same approach that we had on the road. Sometimes when you get home after a pretty good road trip, you try to do a little too much.

"We just want to simplify our game, making sure that we're making good decisions. We hope to have the same starts that we had in those three games. We were up 2-0 in every one of them and our goalie [Semyon Varlamov] did a really good job keeping the game as it was."

Varlamov struggled earlier in the season, but he has won a season-best four consecutive games while stopping 124 of 128 shots for a 0.98 goals-against average and .969 save percentage. Varlamov had 29 saves Monday in a 3-0 win against the Blackhawks when the Avalanche ended Patrick Kane's scoring streak at 26 games.

"He was great on the road trip," Matt Duchene said. "I think he's feeling it. Hopefully the puck's looking like a beach ball for him, big for him. Hopefully he can keep it going."

A win against the Islanders would give the Avalanche a .500 record for the first time since they were 2-2-0 on Oct. 16. They've moved within five points of the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.

"We're in [the playoff race] right now," Duchene said. "We're not too far out and that gives us more motivation to keep climbing."

The Islanders (18-9-5), third in the Metropolitan Division, were on an 8-0-2 run before they closed out a two-game homestand Tuesday with a 5-1 loss to the Florida Panthers. They outshot the Panthers 19-2 in a scoreless first period and 34-16 overall against goalie Roberto Luongo.

Islanders coach Jack Capuano said he's looking for the same kind of effort against Colorado with better results.

"Their goalie is playing really well," he said of Varlamov. "We have to get pucks to the net, take away his eyes and his vision. We have to find a way to get those second and third opportunities around the net."

Goalie Thomas Greiss will start for the second time this season against the Avalanche. He had 25 saves in a 5-3 win against them on Nov. 30 at the Barclays Center.

Here are the projected lineups:

ISLANDERS

Brock Nelson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo

Anders Lee - Frans Nielsen - Josh Bailey

Nikolay Kulemin - Mikhail Grabovski - Ryan Strome

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck

Calvin de Haan - Johnny Boychuk

Nick Leddy - Travis Hamonic

Thomas Hickey - Marek Zidlicky

Thomas Greiss

Jaroslav Halak

Injured: Jean-Francois Berube (lower body)

Scratched: Steve Bernier, Eric Boulton, Brian Strait

AVALANCHE

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Matt Duchene

Andreas Martinsen - Carl Soderberg - Blake Comeau

Alex Tanguay - John Mitchell - Jarome Iginla

Cody McLeod - Mikhail Grigorenko - Jack Skille

Francois Beauchemin - Erik Johnson

Nick Holden - Tyson Barrie

Zach Redmond - Nate Guenin

Semyon Varlamov

Reto Berra

Injured: Ben Street (chest), Brad Stuart (back), Jesse Winchester (head)

Scratched: Brandon Gormley, Chris Wagner

Status report: Beauchemin will play after missing the final seven minutes of the game Monday in Chicago following a high hit from Andrew Shaw. "He got me on the chin," Beauchemin said. "I didn't have any headaches, no [concussion] symptoms. That was the biggest issue for me."

Who's hot: Zidlicky has two goals and one assist in a two-game scoring streak ... Nelson has one goal and one assist in a two-game streak ... Landeskog has one goal and two assists in a two-game streak.

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