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Avalanche get Tanguay back, start trip vs. Panthers

by Brian Hunter

AVALANCHE (31-13-5) at PANTHERS (20-23-7)


Last 10: Colorado 7-2-1; Florida 5-3-2

Season series: This is the second of two games between the Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers. Tom Gilbert assisted on three goals and Tim Thomas made 32 saves to lead Florida to a 4-1 victory in Denver on Nov. 16.

Big story: One of the top offenses in the NHL gets another weapon back Friday, as veteran forward Alex Tanguay returns to the Avalanche lineup after missing 36 games due to knee and hip injuries. Even without him for most of the season, Colorado has clicked to the tune of 2.88 goals per game, sixth in the League entering games Thursday.

Team Scope:

Avalanche: This is the start of a three-game road trip in a four-day span for Colorado, beginning with the two Florida teams and ending Monday against the Dallas Stars. The Avalanche have played three road games this month and won them all, averaging four goals per contest.

The best news to come out of a 5-2 home loss Tuesday to the Toronto Maple Leafs was the return of forward PA Parenteau, who played his first game since Dec. 29 and assisted on the first of two goals by Nathan MacKinnon. Now Tanguay is also set to reenter the lineup.

"We've gone through a rough patch with injuries and we've still managed to play some pretty good hockey and managed to pull out some wins," captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "Getting these guys back gives us even more offensive power and depth. They're certainly going to help us on the power play and to spread the scoring a little bit as well. They're pretty hungry and eager to get back."

Panthers: Fresh off a three-game trip of its own, Florida makes a quick pit stop at BB&T Center before heading back out on the road for the next four. The Panthers followed up a dominant effort in a 5-1 win at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday by edging the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 the following night to string together consecutive victories for the first time since taking five straight from Dec. 10-19.

Veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski, in his ninth game back from a career-threatening hip injury, scored his first goal since April 5, 2012, and added an assist against the Sabres.

"He cares and wants to win, but he also wants to have fun, and that's been important to us too," defenseman Brian Campbell said in the Miami Herald. "He loves being in this locker room. Time goes pretty fast and this can go away pretty quick. I think it's a good lesson for everyone. He loves what this is."

Who's hot: MacKinnon has consecutive multiple-point games for the Avalanche and leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (33). … Panthers forward Jesse Winchester has two goals and three assists during a three-game point streak. Forward Jonathan Huberdeau has one goal and three assists during a three-game point streak. Rookie forward Nick Bjugstad has three goals and two assists in his past six games.

Injury report: Avalanche defenseman Nate Guenin (ankle) could return either Friday or Saturday at the Tampa Bay Lightning. Defenseman Cory Sarich (back) remains on injured reserve. … Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov (lower body) left in the second period against Buffalo and will miss his first game Friday. Defensemen Dylan Olsen (lower body) and Alex Petrovic (upper body) are on injured reserve.

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