CHICAGO -- The Colorado Avalanche are going through a tough stretch with injuries and the picture didn't get much better Tuesday at United Center.
Center Paul Stastny did not participate in the morning skate because of an undisclosed leg injury that forced him to leave Colorado's previous game Friday at the Minnesota Wild and will not face the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday. Stastny, who has 13 goals and 21 assists in 43 games, also sat out practice Monday.
"He's day-to-day and he's not ready to play [Tuesday]," Colorado coach Patrick Roy said. "We're going to play seven [defensemen] because Paul's not ready. We're going to have 20 guys, so everybody's going to have their share of ice time, I guess."
Stastny wasn't the only Avalanche player who missed practice Monday and the morning skate Tuesday. Backup goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere is dealing with back spasms, which prompted Colorado to call up Sami Aittokallio from Lake Erie of the American Hockey League. Aittokallio will back up starter Semyon Varlamov.
Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie also sat out practice Monday but will be in the lineup after missing one game due to a shoulder injury. Rookie defenseman Karl Stollery, who filled in for Barrie against the Wild, was sent to Lake Erie on Monday.
The Avalanche also have four players on injured reserve, including top forwards P.A. Parenteau (knee) and Alex Tanguay (hip).
Colorado enters Tuesday nine points behind the first-place Blackhawks in the Central Division, but more important is a six-point lead the Avalanche hold against Minnesota in the race for the division's third and final guaranteed spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"I don't think we really look at [it] like, 'OK, there's a team, let's overtake them [in the standings],'" Colorado center Matt Duchene said. "It's just game-by-game and you just try to put as many points in the win column as you can and where you end up is where you end up. This is a big game for us because we want to make the playoffs. At the end of the day, as many points we can get is going to give us the best chance."
Chicago's lone injury is to 41-year old backup goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who underwent surgery Jan. 7 to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, a procedure that's expected to keep him out for the rest of the season.
Otherwise the Blackhawks are healthy, at least from a physical standpoint. Mentally, they're looking to build off a 5-3 victory at home Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers which snapped a three-game winless skid.
Most teams would trade quite a bit to have Chicago's recent "struggles" as their own, but the Blackhawks have set a high standard for their own performance after winning the Presidents' Trophy and the Stanley Cup last season.
They head into their game Tuesday against the Avalanche on top in the Central with 70 points, but the second-place St. Louis Blues are three points behind and have four games in hand. The Blues also lead the NHL in goal differential at plus-62, a spot 19 higher than the second-place Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks' focus Tuesday, however, was on the Avalanche, who've managed to win five of the past seven games and earn points in 12 of the past 15 despite the injuries piling up.
"They're young and talented," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said of the Avalanche. "I think beyond that they've just got players that are hungry to make the playoffs and be a contending team. When you have that drive, and with a new coach, they're going to do a lot of things right and improve anyway they can."
Here are the projected starting lineups for the Avalanche and Blackhawks on Tuesday:
Gabriel Landeskog - Matt Duchene - Ryan O'Reilly
Nathan MacKinnon - John Mitchell - Jamie McGinn
Cody McLeod - Marc-Andre Cliche - Maxime Talbot
Nick Holden - Brad Malone - Patrick Bordeleau
Jan Hejda - Erik Johnson
Cory Sarich - Andre Benoit
Ryan Wilson - Tyson Barrie
Injured: Paul Stastny (leg), Nate Guenin (ankle), Alex Tanguay (knee), P.A. Parenteau (knee), David Van Der Gulik (head), Jean-Sebastien Giguere (back spasms)
Patrick Sharp - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa
Brandon Saad - Andrew Shaw - Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell - Michal Handzus - Kris Versteeg
Brandon Bollig - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith
Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Nick Leddy - Michal Rozsival
Scratched: Michael Kostka, Sheldon Brookbank
Injured: Nikolai Khabibulin (rotator cuff surgery)