AVALANCHE (7-10-1) at PENGUINS (11-7-0)
TV: ROOT, ALT
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will shuffle their defensive pairings without Olli Maatta against the Colorado Avalanche at Consol Energy Center on Thursday.
After Maatta was released from the hospital Wednesday, the Penguins announced he would miss 3-4 weeks with an upper-body injury he sustained after Minnesota Wild forward Nino Niederreiter checked him into the boards during the second period of Pittsburgh's 4-3 win Tuesday. The Penguins recalled defenseman David Warsofsky from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League on Thursday.
Warsofsky has one goal and three points in 10 NHL games split between two previous seasons with the Boston Bruins, but will not make his Penguins debut against Colorado. Instead, defenseman Adam Clendening will play in consecutive games for the first time in his initial season with Pittsburgh, coach Mike Johnston said.
"Olli's a tough guy to replace with the amount of minutes and the role he plays, and the do-it-all attitude he brings," Clendening said. "So I think we'll do a good job of collectively picking up his minutes. Whether it be me, or [Rob Scuderi] or [Brian Dumoulin] or whoever it may be."
Clendening first appeared for the Penguins on Oct. 15 in a 2-0 win against the Ottawa Senators, but didn't see the ice again for over a month, until he earned his first assist with Pittsburgh on Tuesday. He played 21 games with the Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks last season, his first in the NHL.
Defenseman Rob Scuderi will re-enter the Penguins' lineup, on the top pairing with Kris Letang, after being scratched because of an illness Tuesday.
"You always want to be in the lineup and I would've hoped to play in the last game, but I think it was the right call. I just didn't have much energy even for the pregame skate," Scuderi said. "I don't think [playing with Letang] is anything too big. That's why you have a system. You're going to have some wrinkles you'll have to work out from time to time, but I'm thinking we'll be OK."
The Avalanche will welcome captain Gabriel Landeskog, who served a two-game suspension for a hit to the head of Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand, back to their lineup Thursday. Landeskog is fourth on Colorado with 12 points.
"It's key to have him back," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "It's nice to have him back. He's a key player on our team and certainly plays well with [Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene]."
Avalanche forward Blake Comeau will return to Pittsburgh for the first time since signing with Colorado on July 1 as an unrestricted free agent. Comeau scored 16 goals and 31 points and in his lone season with the Penguins.
"I'm getting great opportunities to play with some great players here," Comeau said. "Last year, it was just a fresh start. The coaching staff saw me in a way that maybe other coaching staffs previously didn't. I got to play with some great players and I think as the season went on, I just gained confidence."
Roy said forward Ben Street could require surgery for a chest injury that could have him out 3-4 months.
Here are the projected lineups:
Gabriel Landeskog – Nathan MacKinnon – Matt Duchene
Blake Comeau – Carl Soderberg – Jarome Iginla
Cody McLeod – Mikhail Grigorenko – Andreas Martinsen
Dennis Everberg – Chris Wagner – Jack Skille
Francois Beauchemin – Erik Johnson
Nick Holden – Tyson Barrie
Brandon Gormley – Nate Guenin
Injured: John Mitchell (oblique), Brad Stuart (back), Alex Tanguay (knee), Semyon Varlamov (groin), Jesse Winchester (head), Ben Street (chest)
Scratched: Zach Redmond
Pascal Dupuis – Sidney Crosby – Patric Hornqvist
David Perron – Evgeni Malkin – Phil Kessel
Chris Kunitz – Nick Bonino – Beau Bennett
Sergei Plotnikov – Matt Cullen – Eric Fehr
Rob Scuderi – Kris Letang
Brian Dumoulin – Ben Lovejoy
Ian Cole – Adam Clendening
Injured: Olli Maatta (upper body), Bryan Rust (undisclosed)
Scratched: David Warsofsky, Daniel Sprong
Status report: Bonino skated as Pittsburgh's third-line center after missing its game Tuesday with an undisclosed injury. Fehr, who skated in Bonino's place against Minnesota, moved to fourth-line right wing … Pickard was recalled from the San Antonio Rampage on Nov. 11 with Varlamov, who is listed as day-to-day, recovering from a groin injury. Varlamov was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 15, retroactive to Nov. 10.
Who's hot: Malkin scored two goals and four points against the Wild. He leads the Penguins with 16 points and is tied with Kessel for the lead in goals with six … MacKinnon has scored at least one point in six of his past seven games. He is five points ahead of Duchene for the Avalanche lead in points (20) and is tied with Duchene for the lead with eight goals.