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Duchene returns to Avalanche lineup vs. Capitals

Colorado's leading scorer back after knee injury; Washington's Backstrom won't play

by Rick Sadowski / NHL.com Correspondent

CAPITALS (54-16-6) at AVALANCHE (39-34-4)

TV: 9 p.m. ET; ALT, CSN-DC, NHL.TV

DENVER -- Center Matt Duchene will return to the Colorado Avalanche lineup Friday against the Washington Capitals at Pepsi Center after missing six games with a knee injury.

Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, who leads them in scoring with 67 points, won't play because of an undisclosed injury he sustained Wednesday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

"Just got banged up a little bit last game so we're just going to keep him out for precautionary reasons," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said.

Video: NSH@WSH: Kuznetsov sets up Oshie with nifty dish

Evgeny Kuznetsov will slide into Backstrom's center position on a line with left wing Andre Burakovsky and right wing Justin Williams. Marcus Johansson will move to center between left wing Alex Ovechkin and right wing T.J. Oshie.

The Capitals have clinched the Presidents' Trophy, but the Avalanche are five points behind the Minnesota Wild for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference with five games remaining. They have one game in hand on the Wild, who play at the Detroit Red Wings on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, FS-N, FS-D+).

"Everyone's got to be pulling their weight right now and it doesn't matter whether I was hurt or not," said Duchene, who last played March 16 against the Vancouver Canucks. "I want to make a difference. I want to help the team win and play my role the best that I can."

The Avalanche went 3-3-0 without Duchene, who leads them with 29 goals and 56 points. He will center a line with left wing Mikkel Boedker and right wing Mikhail Grigorenko.

Video: COL@WPG: Duchene tallies off Iginla's rebound

"I expect to be a little rusty tonight at times but hopefully it comes back quick," Duchene said. "It'll probably be a little bit of an adjustment process getting into the game a little bit. But hopefully our line gets on the board early. I was really happy with where things were at when I got hurt but I wasn't off for too long to the point where I don't think I can find it quick again.

"We don't want to take these games for granted and not be ready and look back and go, 'If we had only won those we'd be in [the playoffs]. Every game has meant a lot and this one is no different."

The Capitals have little to play for with six games to go, but Trotz said that in order to maintain a high competitive level heading into the playoffs, he won't sit out players unless they're injured.

"I think players like rhythm," he said. "I've talked to some guys who have been in this position, I've talked to our players. I think a body in motion stays in motion. I will reduce your minutes, and I have done that with our hockey team the last month here. Everybody's playing a little bit less. I do value rest; rest is a weapon at the right time. Too much rest is absolutely asking for disaster because you just can't crank it up again.  

"[Players] are getting our message to prepare for the playoffs. The only way you do that is by playing at a high level. I've been happy the last little while that we've locked things down in different areas of our game. For the most part I think if the playoffs were to start tomorrow we'd be ready to go. We have [six] games left so we have to get through those."

Here are the projected lineups:

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Marcus Johansson - T.J. Oshie

Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams

Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson

Daniel Winnik - Mike Richards - Stanislav Galiev

Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen

Nate Schmidt - John Carlson

Brooks Orpik - Dmitry Orlov

Braden Holtby

Philipp Grubauer

Injured: Nicklas Backstrom (undisclosed)

Scratched: Taylor Chorney, Michael Latta, Mike Weber

AVALANCHE

Mikkel Boedker - Matt Duchene - Mikhail Grigorenko

Gabriel Landeskog - Carl Soderberg - Blake Comeau

Shawn Matthias - John Mitchell - Jarome Iginla

Cody McLeod - Andrew Agozzino - Andreas Martinsen

Chris Bigras - Erik Johnson

Nick Holden - Tyson Barrie

Nikita Zadorov - Francois Beauchemin

Semyon Varlamov

Calvin Pickard

Injured: Eric Gelinas (elbow), Nathan MacKinnon (knee), Brad Stuart (back surgery), Jesse Winchester (head)

Scratched: Andrew Bodnarchuk, Zach Redmond, Jack Skille

Status report: Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said MacKinnon has yet to skate since getting injured March 18 against the Calgary Flames. There is no timetable for his return.

Who's hot: Holtby has gone 6-1-2 in his past nine games. His next win would be his 47th, one shy of Martin Brodeur's NHL record of 48. ... Boedker has four points, all assists, in his past five games.

Video: Matt Duchene talks about his return

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