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Preview: Avalanche at Devils

Colorado goalie Jeremy Smith to make NHL debut; defenseman Jon Merrill returns for New Jersey

by Mike G. Morreale @MikeMorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

AVALANCHE (15-36-2) at DEVILS (23-22-10)

7 p.m. ET; MSG, ALT, NHL.TV


Avalanche team scope

Colorado Avalanche goaltender Jeremy Smith is expected to make his NHL debut. Smith, 27, was recalled from San Antonio of the American Hockey League on Feb. 8 and has served as backup to Calvin Pickard for eight games this season. Selected in the second round (No. 54) by the Nashville Predators in the 2007 NHL Draft, Smith also spent time with the AHL affiliates of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Boston Bruins. He is 5-8-0 with a 2.57 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in San Antonio this season. Pickard allowed five goals on 33 shots in a 5-1 loss at the New York Islanders on Sunday. Center Matt Duchene, who has scored 15 goals and 32 points in 48 games, hasn't scored in his past 10 games. The Avalanche have lost the first two of their five-game road trip and three straight overall.


Devils team scope

New Jersey Devils defenseman Jon Merrill will return after missing four games because of an upper-body injury. Merrill, who will likely begin the game alongside Steven Santini, will replace Seth Helgeson. "I'm excited to help our team get back on track," Merrill said. "We had a tough [4-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks] on Sunday, so let's get back in the win column and get this thing rolling again. Personally, I just have to keep it simple early, bring a strong work ethic and get a few bumps in in order to get engaged in the game." Goaltender Cory Schneider will make his sixth straight start. He is 6-4-4 with a 1.69 GAA and .944 save percentage in 15 games against the Avalanche. Coach John Hynes is familiar with Smith, who he coached at the 2008 IIHF World Junior Championship while representing the United States. "I also saw him a little when I was coaching Wilkes-Barre in the American Hockey League when he was in Providence," Hynes said. "He's an athletic goaltender, a good player. I'm sure he'll be ready to play. For us it's not just about him, though. We have lots of respect for this team and we need to be mentally ready to compete."


Avalanche projected lineup

Gabriel Landeskog -- Nathan MacKinnon -- Mikko Rantanen

Mikhail Grigorenko -- Matt Duchene -- Matt Nieto

Blake Comeau -- John Mitchell -- Jarome Iginla

Carl Soderberg -- Joe Colborne -- Andreas Martinsen

Francois Beauchemin -- Tyson Barrie

Mark Barberio -- Nikita Zadorov

Fedor Tyutin -- Cody Goloubef

Jeremy Smith

Calvin Pickard

Scratched: Patrick Wiercioch

Injured: Rene Bourque (head), Erik Johnson (broken fibula), Semyon Varlamov (hip surgery)


Devils projected lineup

Taylor Hall -- Travis Zajac -- Kyle Palmieri

Miles Wood -- Adam Henrique -- Michael Cammalleri

Pavel Zacha -- Jacob Josefson -- Stefan Noesen

Joseph Blandisi -- Sergey Kalinin -- PA Parenteau

Andy Greene -- Ben Lovejoy

Jon Merrill -- Steven Santini

John Moore -- Damon Severson

Cory Schneider

Keith Kinkaid

Scratched: Devante Smith-Pelly, Seth Helgeson

Injured: Beau Bennett (lower body), Kyle Quincey (upper body)


Status report

Five players took part in an optional skate for the Avalanche, including Johnson, who will miss his 31st game. ... Quincey and Bennett, participants at the morning skate, are close to returning, according to Hynes. Quincey will miss his third straight game and Bennett will miss his ninth.


Who's hot

Landeskog has scored two goals and five points in his past five games. MacKinnon has scored one goal and five points in his past five games. ... Hall has scored two goals and five points in his past five games. Henrique has scored four goals and seven points in his past six games.

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