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Avalanche host Jackets looking to build off win

by Brian Hunter

BLUE JACKETS (33-29-10) at AVALANCHE (27-36-8)


Last 10:
Columbus 2-5-3; Colorado 1-8-1

Season series: Fourth and final meeting of the season. Colorado won the first two matchups by identical 5-1 scores before Columbus came out on top 3-1 on Feb. 11. David Jones has 3 goals to lead the Avalanche, while Derick Brassard has 2 goals for the Blue Jackets.

Big story:
Colorado has gone from finishing last in the Western Conference two seasons ago to being a surprise playoff team in 2010 and now back to a lottery team, as the Avalanche enter Tuesday with the second-fewest points in the NHL to the Oilers. Matt Duchene, the player they took with the No. 3 pick in the 2009 Entry Draft, has 56 points, one more than during his rookie season, and with two more goals he'll have surpassed that output as well.

Team Scope:

Blue Jackets: Still mathematically alive, Columbus sits nine points out of a playoff spot in the West with 10 games remaining and four teams to climb over in order to reach eighth place. The Blue Jackets didn't do themselves any favors by getting blanked by another desperate team, the Devils, 3-0 at home on Sunday. They were unable to build off a thrilling overtime win over the Wild the previous day, managing only 13 shots on Martin Brodeur.

"They did probably the best I've seen a team get sticks and bodies in the way of shots," coach Scott Arniel said. "It was real evident, two teams -- one team was very tired and one team was fresh."

Avalanche: There hasn't been a ton to smile about in Colorado during the second half of the season, as the Avalanche gradually fell out of the pack of teams fighting for a playoff spot and steadily down into 14th place. Their bid to hold off the Oilers and avoid finishing dead last for the second time in three seasons gained traction with a 3-2 shootout win Saturday, as Ryan Stoa scored in the fourth round and gave Brian Elliott his first win in goal since being acquired from the Senators.

"It took awhile," Elliott told the Denver Post. "It's tough on the mind and even on the body. It wears on you a bit. You have to keep positive. It finally came and, hopefully, we can keep it going and put together some wins at the end of the season. We've played well for the most part in the last few games but weren't getting the results we wanted. It's a happy feeling."

Who's hot: Duchene has 2 goals and 4 assists during a four-game points streak for the Avalanche and has taken over the team lead in scoring by three points over Paul Stastny.

Injury report: Columbus defenseman Grant Clitsome is day-to-day with a knee injury. Defenseman Anton Stralman is also out with a knee injury while forwards Kristian Huselius, Andrew Murray and Chris Clark all have lower-body injuries. ... Colorado defenseman Adam Foote (foot) and forward Milan Hejduk (shoulder) are day-to-day. Forward TJ Galiardi (forearm) and defenseman Kyle Cumiskey (head) are also out of the lineup.

Stat pack: The Blue Jackets have been shut out in consecutive home games, but in their last road game against Minnesota, captain Rick Nash scored twice and finished with 4 points. ... David Jones leads the Avalanche with a career-high 24 goals. He had 10 in 23 games before a knee injury curtailed his 2009-10 season.

Puck drop: Each team has its own sense of pride to defend in this one. Columbus is still above .500 in terms of points percentage despite being 12th in the West, while Colorado has 11 games remaining to establish a better taste in its mouth heading into the offseason.

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