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Avalanche visit Stars in search of fifth straight victory

by Jon Lane

AVALANCHE (10-1-0) vs. STARS (5-6-1)


Last 10: Colorado 9-1-0; Dallas 4-5-1

Season series: The Colorado Avalanche defeated the Dallas Stars 3-2 in their first meeting Oct. 15 in Denver behind two Matt Duchene goals and 39 saves by Semyon Varlamov. Colorado and Dallas play three more times, including a home-and-home Dec. 16 and 17.

Big story: The Avalanche are winners of four straight, a League-best 10-1-0 record and are off to the best start in franchise history, but that didn't stop them acquiring forward Maxime Talbot from the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday in a trade for forward Steve Downie. Talbot, 29, has one goal and one assist in 11 games, and had the highest average shorthanded ice time per game among the Flyers forwards at 3:35.

Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said Thursday that Talbot will play with Nathan MacKinnon and either Jamie McGinn or John Mitchell.

"That gives us flexibility," he said. "We could put Mitchell on a line with McGinn. We could put Talbot at center on the fourth line. We have plenty of options with him. He's a centerman and can play both wings very easily."

Team Scope:

Avalanche: Colorado has been off since rallying for a 3-2 home win against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday. The victory was another example of Roy's positive influence on the team. During the second intermission, Roy showed video to correct some flaws and the players responded with two goals in the third period.

"We had to make some adjustments because the way they play defensively," Roy said. "We wanted to transfer pucks. That's what generated our best chances and our goal. They overload the puck side. We moved the puck and that opened the ice for us."

The status of Varlamov for this game is uncertain after he was arrested Wednesday on second-degree kidnapping and third-degree assault charges. He appeared before a Denver judge Thursday, was granted permission to travel by the court and will be with the team in Dallas.

"We're gonna take it one day at a time, like we've been doing all year long," Roy said. "Obviously it's important that for me as a coach I keep my focus on our team and we keep our focus there. At the same time, we let the law decide what's going to be."

Stars: The Stars made coach Lindy Ruff's return to Buffalo on Monday a success with a 4-3 win, but fell 2-1 the next night to the Montreal Canadiens for a split of their two-game trip. Dallas lost in regulation for the first time in four games, all of which were started by Kari Lehtonen after the goalie's return from a lower-body injury.

"I think we are getting closer to where we want to be," Ruff said. "We've really cut down on the careless plays of late. I want to see us creating more, there were some opportunities to carry the puck over the line where we gave up possession. The last two games, our discipline [was good], our power play looked good, scored a goal. Our penalty kill was strong, our faceoffs are getting better."

Who's hot: Duchene leads Colorado with nine goals, has points in all but three games and tied Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Chris Stewart for the franchise record for goals in October. "I'm really liking the way I'm shooting the puck," Duchene told the Denver Post. "Every time I'm letting it go, I feel like it has a chance to go in. Even if it doesn't, it gives you confidence." … Lehtonen's 1.66 goals-against average and .945 save percentage rank in the League's top 10. Brenden Dillon's three goals lead a Stars defense that has five of its six regular players on the scoresheet.

Injury report: McGinn (knee) sat out Colorado's victory Sunday, but could be good to go Friday. … Stars center Ryan Garbutt will sit out the last of a five-game suspension. Defenseman Aaron Rome (hip) and right wing Scott Glennie (knee) are out.

UPDATE: Varlamov will start tonight for the Avalanche.


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