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At the Rink: Stars at Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- Looking to make up ground in the Western Conference and to get back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs picture, the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche play at Pepsi Center on Saturday.

The Stars (18-15-7), who will reach the halfway point of its season, are four points behind the Winnipeg Jets (20-14-7), who hold the second wild card position. The Stars are one point ahead of the Avalanche (17-16-8), who begin second half play.

The Stars have lost three consecutive games (0-1-2) but are 8-2-2 in their past 12 games. The Avalanche are 4-1-0 in their past five games and 8-3-2 in their past 13.

Dallas and Colorado didn't have a morning skate.

"We're playing a team like us, one that's playing better hockey lately, and it's an opportunity to get ahead of them in the standings and get even closer to our objective," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said Friday.

Goalie Semyon Varlamov will make his seventh consecutive start for the Avalanche, who need to play much better defensively against a Dallas team that features Tyler Seguin, who leads the NHL with 26 goals and is second in scoring with 47 points.

Varlamov made 36 saves Thursday in a 5-2 win against the Ottawa Senators after his 54-save, 2-0 win Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen has been a workhorse, playing in 34 of 40 games. He's gone 4-0-2 in his past six starts while allowing 14 goals.

Here are the projected lineups:


Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Brett Ritchie

Erik Cole - Jason Spezza - Ales Hemsky

Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Ryan Garbutt

Shawn Horcoff - Vernon Fiddler - Colton Sceviour

Alex Goligoski - John Klingberg

Jamie Oleksiak - Trevor Daley

Jordie Benn - Jason Demers - Jordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen

Anders Lindback

Scratched: Travis Moen, David Schlemko

Injured: Patrick Eaves (lower body), Patrik Nemeth (arm laceration), Valeri Nichushkin (hip), Rich Peverley (heart issues)


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

Nick Holden - Brad Stuart

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: Stars coach Lindy Ruff was considering replacing Oleksiak with Schlemko, who has yet to play since he was claimed on waivers Jan. 3 from the Arizona Coyotes. ... Street, who has missed 19 games, practiced Friday and could be available to play as early as Tuesday. It's to be determined if he will stay with the Avalanche or be assigned to Lake Erie in the American Hockey League.

Who's hot: Cole has three goals and two assists in the past four games. ... Iginla has four goals in the past five games and 572 in his NHL career, one behind Mike Bossy for 20th place on the all-time list.

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