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Avalanche begin road trip vs. Devils

by Mike G. Morreale

AVALANCHE (35-14-5) at DEVILS (23-21-12)


Last 10: Colorado 8-2-0; New Jersey 4-3-3

Season series: This is the second of two games between the New Jersey Devils and Colorado Avalanche. Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly scored in the first and third rounds of a shootout against Devils goalie Cory Schneider to give the Avalanche a 2-1 victory at Pepsi Center on Jan. 16.

Big story: Colorado has won three in a row and eight of its past 10 games. Under first-year coach Patrick Roy, the Avalanche are off to their best start since 2000-01 when they won the Stanley Cup. After finishing last in the Western Conference a year ago, Roy has the Avalanche in the running for home ice advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 35 wins and 75 points in 2013-14.

The game against the Devils begins a four-game East Coast swing, which will include visits against the New York Rangers on Tuesday, Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday and New York Islanders on Saturday.

Team Scope:

Avalanche: Colorado went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen in a 7-1 victory against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday at Pepsi Center. Captain Gabriel Landeskog and Jamie McGinn scored two goals apiece, in Colorado's seventh straight against the Sabres since Dec. 4, 2005. It was also the first time the Avalanche scored seven goals in a game since March 6, 2012, against the Minnesota Wild. Nathan MacKinnon, the first pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, leads all rookies in the NHL with 20 goals and 40 points. The potential Calder Trophy candidate notched a career-high three points (one goal, two assists) in the win against Buffalo, and has three goals and seven points in the past four games.

"I've been feeling more comfortable. I think I was a little snake-bit at the beginning and could've scored more than I did," MacKinnon said. "Thankfully things are clicking, I've developed chemistry with guys on the team. Everybody talks about the jump from junior to the NHL, but hockey is hockey and I've been getting back to a lot of things that got me to this League."

Paul Stastny (ankle) participated in the warm-up skate on Saturday, but was a late scratch. Alex Tanguay (knee) had been ruled out earlier in the day.

Devils: New Jersey allowed a 2-1 lead to slip away with 10.8 seconds remaining in the third period on Friday when David Legwand scored to square the contest for the Nashville Predators, who would ultimately win the game when Shea Weber scored 1:28 into overtime. The Devils yielded a final-minute goal in regulation against the Dallas Stars one night earlier, but would gain the victory when Patrik Elias scored 40 seconds into the extra period in a 3-2 win.

Devils coach Peter DeBoer was in no mood to discuss the team's recent struggles protecting a lead in the final minute after the loss to the Predators.

"It happens to everybody," he said. "You guys all look for tendencies; they can't hold the lead, they can't score. You know what? Give me a break. It's four games in six nights. We battled hard. We got an unfortunate bounce at the end. We'll take the point and we'll move on."

The Devils have earned points in 10 of the past 13 games (6-3-4) and in 17 of their past 23. Schneider made his ninth start in the past 12 games for the Devils on Friday, stopping 30 shots in the loss to the Predators.

Who's hot: Landeskog has two goals and seven points in the past five games. … Elias has consecutive multiple-point games and four goals and eight points in the past six.

Injury report: Forwards Stastny (ankle) and Tanguay (knee) are out for the Avalanche. … For the Devils, defensemen Anton Volchenkov (lower body) is out.

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