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Avalanche aim to rebound against Panthers

by Mike Battaglino

PANTHERS (4-12-4) at AVALANCHE (14-4-0)


Last 10: Florida 1-6-3; Colorado 7-3-0

Season series: This is the first of two games. In the most recent meeting, the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Florida Panthers 4-3 in overtime on Jan. 18, 2012.

Big story: After starting 12-1-0, the Avalanche have lost two in a row and three of five, including a 7-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday in which Colorado accumulated 55 penalty minutes.

Team Scope:

Panthers: Florida played its first game without Kris Versteeg on Friday, losing to the Minnesota Wild 3-2 after trading the forward to the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. The Panthers were outscored 2-0 by the Wild in the first 14 minutes of the game; Florida has been outscored 22-8 in the first period this season.

"It seems like there's the same picture coming back over and over again," said coach Peter Horachek, who is 1-3-0 since taking over a week ago. "So this is definitely a project for us to get over that mental part of the game."

The Panthers have trailed in each game under Horachek, but rallied to win one and lost the others by one goal each.

"I have to look at some of the positives in that situation," he said. "People look at the negatives all around us, so I'm not going to be one of those. I get up in the morning and go to work, they're going to get up in the morning and we're going to go to work again tomorrow and we're going to try to eliminate those negative situations."

Avalanche: Colorado built its strong start with an impressive balance throughout the lineup.

Twelve skaters have played every game, and one has missed one. From that group, no one plays more than 22:49 per game (defenseman Jan Hejda) and one plays fewer than 14:36. In its 14 victories, Colorado has a game-winning goal from 11 players.

"We're in a good stretch right now, I think it's [playing] every other day," coach Patrick Roy told Altitude TV on Thursday. "I think it's important to use everybody. And you know what? We had some production from pretty much everybody."

After this, the Avalanche play their next 19 games against Western Conference teams, with the Chicago Blackhawks, Phoenix Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, and Minnesota Wild (twice) on tap before November ends. Each of those teams is in the top nine of the NHL standings.

Who's hot: Panthers forward Jesse Winchester has a four-game point streak (two goals, two assists). Forward Nick Bjugstad has four points in his past five games. … Avalanche forward Paul Stastny has three goals and two assists during a five-game point streak. Forward Gabriel Landeskog has a goal and three assists in a three-game streak. Defenseman Nick Holden has his first NHL goal and assist in the past three games.

Injury report: Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski (hip) is on injured reserve. Forward Scott Gomez (groin) has not played since Nov. 7. … Avalanche defenseman Ryan Wilson (back) and forward Alex Tanguay (knee) are out.

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