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Avalanche head back out on road to face Hurricanes

by Brian Hunter
AVALANCHE (24-14-6) at HURRICANES (11-24-7)

Last 10: Colorado 6-4-0; Carolina 4-5-1

Season series:
The Avalanche will be aiming for the season sweep, as they edged the Hurricanes 5-4 in Colorado on Oct. 23. Paul Stastny scored twice, including the goal that held up as the game-winner. Ryan O'Reilly, Milan Hejduk and Wojtek Wolski also tallied and Craig Anderson made 32 saves.

Big story: Colorado has spent a significant portion of this season leading the Northwest Division, but the Avalanche begin play Friday in third place, a single point behind Calgary and Vancouver. Carolina has split its last four games and is playing for the second time in as many nights.

Team Scope:

This is the start of a three-game road trip for Colorado, which has spent plenty of time away from home lately. The Avalanche won two out of three on a recent swing, then returned to the Pepsi Center for a single game which they lost 3-2 to the Islanders on Wednesday.

"We need to figure out ways where, personally, we're motivated -- each guy individually and as a team," forward Matt Hendricks told the Denver Post. "I think we're a great team, but we need to figure that out."

Rod Brind'Amour gave Carolina an early lift Thursday night in Nashville by opening the scoring with his first goal in 36 games, but the Hurricanes -- already shorthanded in terms of manpower -- hurt themselves by taking eight penalties. That included a five-minute major for checking from behind by Andrew Alberts which led to Patric Hornqvist's second power-play goal of the game in a 4-2 loss to the Predators.

"You don't like to see your team take them, and I'm not arguing them. But it's the difference in the game," coach Paul Maurice said. "Our margin for error, if you've got six NHL players out of the game, our margin for error is pretty thin. The penalty box swings it."

Who's hot: Colorado forward Chris Stewart has goals in consecutive games and 10 in his last 14. … Carolina forward Tom Kostopoulos has goals in two straight after only scoring twice in his first 40 games.

Injury report:
Avalanche defenseman Brett Clark is unlikely to play Friday due to a bruised cheekbone. Forwards Marek Svatos (groin) and David Jones (torn left ACL) and defenseman Ruslan Salei (back) are on injured reserve.

The Hurricanes are without forwards Sergei Samsonov (upper body), Erik Cole (upper body), Scott Walker (shoulder), Chad LaRose (lower body) and Eric Staal (personal), as well as defenseman Joe Corvo (leg).

Stat pack:
Rookies have played a key role in Colorado's success this season, combining for a League-best 76 points (26 goals). Matt Duchene, the No. 3 pick in last year's Entry Draft, was named Rookie of the Month for December after leading all first-year players with 13 points (five goals, eight assists). Duchene, who turns 19 on Jan. 16, has 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists) for the season.

Puck drop:
Jerome Samson became the latest AHL call-up to the Hurricanes when he made his NHL debut on Thursday and assisted on the Brind'Amour goal on his very first shift.

"I was kind of nervous before the game," Samson, who took 13 shifts and finished with four shots in 7:10 of ice time, told the Raleigh News and Observer. "It was my first game, my first chance."

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