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At the Rink: Senators at Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche will reach the halfway point of the season when they play the Ottawa Senators at Pepsi Center on Thursday knowing they have plenty of work to do to move into contention for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Avalanche (16-16-8, 40 points) are seven points behind the Winnipeg Jets (20-13-7, 47 points) for the second wild-card position in the Western Conference. They've won three of their past four games and have gone 7-3-2 in the past 12.

"I think the last few weeks we've grown as a team," Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "I think we've gotten better as the season has gone along, but we certainly want to improve. We know we have to improve to get to the playoffs. We have an opportunity tonight to keep going on home ice, where we've played pretty solid hockey as of late and we want to keep that up."

Goalie Semyon Varlamov will make his sixth consecutive start. He is 4-2-0 since returning from a groin injury and coming off a 54-save, 2-0 road win Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks.

"He's a strong person and yesterday he had a day off," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "I asked him how he felt this morning and he said very good. We need our No. 1 goalie right now.

"As a goalie, when you get on a streak where you feel you're in the zone, you want to play. You don't want to hear your coach saying, 'Yeah, you had 54 shots, maybe I should give you a day off.' He wants the net, he wants to play. He missed a lot of games."

The Senators (16-15-8, 40 points) are six points behind the Boston Bruins (20-15-6, 46 points) for the second wild-card position in the Eastern Conference. They're 5-4-3 since Dave Cameron replaced Paul MacLean as coach on Dec. 8.

Ottawa opened a four-game road trip Tuesday with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers when it went 0-for-4 on the man advantage to extend their power-play slump to 0-for-25 during a seven-game stretch.

Rookie Curtis Lazar won't be in the lineup to help the Senators end that drought. Lazar, captain of Canada's gold medal-winning team in the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championships, is being given another day to rest. He hasn't taken part in a full practice since returning.

Goalie Craig Anderson will start against his former Avalanche teammates. He's 4-1-2 in his past seven starts while allowing 12 goals.

Here are the projected lineups:


Clarke MacArthur - Kyle Turris - Mark Stone

Mike Hoffman - Mika Zibanejad - Bobby Ryan

Colin Greening - David Legwand - Erik Condra

Milan Michalek - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Alex Chiasson

Patrick Wiercioch - Erik Karlsson

Jared Cowen - Cody Ceci

Chris Phillips - Eric Gryba

Marc Methot

Craig Anderson

Robin Lehner

Scratched: Curtis Lazar

Injured: Mark Borowiecki (lacerated leg), Chris Neil (knee) Zach Smith (wrist)


Gabriel Landeskog - Matt Duchene - Borna Rendulic

Alex Tanguay - Ryan O'Reilly - Jarome Iginla

Maxime Talbot - John Mitchell - Nathan MacKinnon

Cody McLeod - Marc-Andre Cliche - Daniel Briere

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: Cameron said Methot would return to the Senators lineup after missing 13 games with a back injury, but he hadn't decided who would be scratched ... Street wore a non-contact jersey at the morning skate. He's missed 18 games and is expected to be assigned to Lake Erie in the American Hockey League when he's ready to play.

Who's hot: Hoffman has three goals and one assist in the past five games ... Turris has two goals and two assists in four games ... Landeskog has one goal and two assists in four games.

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