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Preview: Avalanche at Flyers

Philadelphia starts Steve Mason in goal; Avalanche begin three-game trip

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Staff Writer

AVALANCHE (17-40-3) at FLYERS (28-26-7)



Avalanche team scope

The Colorado Avalanche start a three-game road trip with questions swirling, most of them related to the NHL Trade Deadline (March 1, 3 p.m.). Center Matt Duchene, who has been involved in much of the speculation, told the Denver Post on Monday that he's looking forward to the deadline passing and getting back to focusing on hockey. "It's hard to look past three days right now," he said. "I can't really look past that because I just don't know where I'm going to be. So we'll see what happens." Other players are doing what they can to focus on what they have to do to start winning games. "I'm just focusing on [the Philadelphia Flyers]," center Nathan MacKinnon said. "[Monday] we had a good practice, and focus on [Tuesday] in Philly and keep doing that." Coach Jared Bednar said the rumors have surrounded his team for a while now and said he doesn't expect to see a different mindset from his players. "We've been dealing with the rumors for quite some time," he said. "I think our guys have done a good job handing the outside noise that's been coming our way."


Flyers team scope

The Philadelphia Flyers remain focused on making a run for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, despite what could happen before the trade deadline. "Doesn't matter if we keep all our guys, trade a few guys, whatever [general manager Ron Hextall] plans on doing, doesn't change our opinion of what we have in mind," forward Brayden Schenn said. "And that's making the playoffs and making a run these last 21 games." The Flyers are six points out of the second wild card from the Eastern Conference but remain confident. "We believe in this group," Schenn said. "I know we've been sliding a bit of late, but we've been in this position before. We've got 21 games left, six points out, battling with a lot of teams, but it's very doable. … You win some games, you win the right games, we should put ourselves in a good position." Finding more offense will help; they have 17 goals in 11 games since the All-Star break. Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere scored his first goal in 34 games against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday and the hope is that he and others in goal droughts will get hot. "I think the next thing is when you get one they generally seem to come in bunches," forward Wayne Simmonds said. "Hopefully that happens for him." Goalie Steve Mason will play for the first time since Feb. 9; Michal Neuvirth had started the previous seven games.


Avalanche projected lineup

Gabriel Landeskog -- Nathan MacKinnon -- Blake Comeau

Mikko Rantanen -- Matt Duchene -- Matt Nieto

Joe Colborne -- John Mitchell -- Jarome Iginla

Andreas Martinsen -- Mikhail Grigorenko -- Rene Bourque

Fedor Tyutin -- Tyson Barrie

Patrick Wiercioch -- Erik Johnson

Francois Beauchemin -- Mark Barberio

Jeremy Smith

Calvin Pickard

Scratched: Cody Goloubef, Carl Soderberg

Injured: Nikita Zadorov (ankle), Semyon Varlamov (groin)

Flyers projected lineup

Jordan Weal -- Claude Giroux -- Wayne Simmonds

Nick Cousins -- Brayden Schenn -- Jakub Voracek

Michael Raffl -- Sean Couturier -- Dale Weise

Chris VandeVelde -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Matt Read

Ivan Provorov -- Andrew MacDonald

Shayne Gostisbehere -- Mark Streit

Michael Del Zotto -- Radko Gudas

Steve Mason

Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Nick Schultz, Roman Lyubimov

Injured: Travis Konecny (lower body)

Suspended: Brandon Manning


Status report

The Avalanche did not have a morning skate. Bednar said Smith will make his second straight start. He made 34 saves in a 5-3 defeat of the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday for his first NHL win. "I'm going back with Smith because I really liked his game the other night," Bednar said Tuesday. "I thought he was strong in net. I feel like he's earned another start here. We came out firing early [Saturday], built a three-goal lead and then he was put under duress for a little bit. He made some big saves to keep us in there. He's a confident guy right now, got his first NHL win. We're going to see if we can't ride that confidence a litle bit." Bednar said Pickard, who didn't play Saturday because of a sore neck, is healthy. … Del Zotto will play in place of Manning, who received a two-game suspension from the NHL Department of Player Safety on Monday. Konecny took part in an optional morning skate for the first time since he was injured Feb. 6. He wore a non-contact jersey but engaged in battle drills with Manning at the end of practice. "It's hard to determine exactly when [he'll return]," Konecny said. "I guess from here on out we keep building it up, keep building the intensity. When it comes to me being good to go … I don't know exactly when it'll be but hopefully sooner than later."

Who's hot

Landeskog had two goals and an assist against Buffalo. … Schenn has three goals and two assists during a four-game point streak.

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