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Avalanche's Duchene back home for Game 7

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- Center Matt Duchene will play his first home game in a month Wednesday when the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild play Game 7 of their Western Conference First Round series at Pepsi Center (9:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, TSN2, RDS, FS-N, ALT).

This will be Duchene's first game in the building since March 29, when he sustained a knee injury in a collision with teammate Jamie McGinn on their first shift against the San Jose Sharks.

"It's going to be awesome," said Duchene, who returned in Game 6, played nearly 19 minutes and had an assist in the Avalanche's 5 - 2 loss. "It was so hard for me to watch the intros for the games here and not be able to skate with the boys, so it's really going to be exciting to be a part of it tonight. It'll be fun to be out there in front of the home crowd. They've been unbelievable for us in the series.

"Usually your puck skills go away when you get hurt, but they stayed with me a little bit more this time. In terms of my foot speed and my skating, it has a long way to go. Hopefully we win tonight and I can continue to improve on that."

Duchene will skate with left wing Ryan O'Reilly and right wing PA Parenteau, and rookie center Joey Hishon will anchor the third line with McGinn and right wing Maxime Talbot.

Hishon, the Avalanche's first-round pick (No. 17) in the 2010 NHL Draft, made his NHL debut in Game 4 of the series at the Xcel Energy Center after being called up from the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League.

"A week ago I hadn't played my first NHL game and now it's Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so it's pretty crazy," Hishon, 22, said. "I'm going to be ready to go. I'm going to do everything I possibly can. I've prepared myself to play hockey, and to perform as good as I can and help this team win."

Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said he liked how Hishon played in Games 4 and 5. He's hoping to inject more offense into a lineup that has gotten most of its production from the line of Gabriel Landeskog, Paul Stastny and Nathan MacKinnon.

"I like his offensive skills," Roy said of Hishon, an excellent playmaker and stickhandler. "I think he brings more offense to our team. I like the way he's been playing. I like the way he played the last two games. We need everybody. This is a must win. You don't know who's going to score the big goal. Is it a fourth-line guy, a third-line guy or the second or first line?

"At the end of the night, you just want to be on the winning side."

Hishon said he played in one Game 7, when Owen Sound defeated Mississauga St. Michael's 3 - 2 in double overtime to win the Ontario Hockey League championship in 2011.

"It's a huge honor that Patrick is showing some confidence in me, and I have to prove him right and I want to make the most of my opportunity," he said. "I've tried to work hard every day and do what I can to stay in the lineup. That's where I'm at right now. My confidence is high right now, and I have to ride that out and continue to play as hard as I can. Those two games I did play I felt I belonged."

Here is the projected lineup:

Gabriel Landeskog - Paul Stastny - Nathan MacKinnon

Ryan O'Reilly - Matt Duchene - PA Parenteau

Jamie McGinn - Joey Hishon - Maxime Talbot

Cody McLeod - Marc-Andre Cliche - Patrick Bordeleau

Jan Hejda - Erik Johnson

Nate Guenin - Ryan Wilson

Andre Benoit - Nick Holden

Semyon Varlamov

Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Scratched: Reto Berra, Paul Carey, Brad Malone, Stefan Elliott

Injured: Tyson Barrie (knee), John Mitchell (concussion) Cory Sarich (back), Alex Tanguay (hip surgery)

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