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Avalanche aim to extend winning streak against Stars

Dallas hopes to close three-point gap on Chicago in Central Division

by Rick Sadowski @RickS7 / NHL.com Correspondent

STARS (32-14-5) at AVALANCHE (27-23-3) 

TV: FS-SW, ALT, NHL.TV 

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche have had the Dallas Stars' number in recent seasons, winning eight in a row against them heading into their game Thursday at Pepsi Center (9 p.m. ET; FS-SW, ALT, NHL.TV). 

The Avalanche are 2-0-0 against the Stars this season and haven't lost to them since a 3-2 defeat at American Airlines Center on Dec. 17, 2013. 

"For some reason you play some teams and it clicks for us," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "I'll knock on wood making sure it continues like this tonight."

The Avalanche (27-23-3) defeated the Stars 3-1 on Jan. 23 despite being outshot 43-15. Goalie Semyon Varlamov made 42 saves, and Colorado received shorthanded goals from forwards Carl Soderberg and Gabriel Landeskog.  

"They outplayed us last game," Roy said. "They were all over us and our goaltending was phenomenal. You just find ways to win sometimes against some teams." 

Goalie Calvin Pickard will start Thursday because Varlamov needs more practice time after dealing with a legal matter the past two weeks. Pickard made 40 saves Tuesday in the Avalanche's 2-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. 

"[The Stars] are a fast, skilled team so we have to play a good, hard simple game and try and be in their end more than the last time," Avalanche defenseman Nick Holden said. "We need good goaltending again, but hopefully we can limit their shots and their chances. They have lots of firepower and you don't want to give them too many opportunities." 

The Stars (32-14-5) are looking to close the gap on the Central Division-leading Blackhawks. They trail Chicago by three points and have played three fewer games. Dallas, which went 3-6-2 in January, opened a two-game road trip Tuesday with a 5-3 win against the Winnipeg Jets. 

"January was a tough month for us, but we've moved on from that," said Stars center Tyler Seguin, who scored twice against the Jets and has 27 goals, fourth best in the NHL and one behind linemate Jamie Benn. "This month is probably the hardest month in terms of teams playing hard, so we have to really dig deep here." 

Seguin said that he and the Stars grew frustrated the last time they played Colorado. He matched his season high for shots on goal with eight but failed to put one into the net. 

"I think I had about 17 attempts, one of my higher games," he said. "You can almost be overly trying [to take shots] if that makes sense, shooting from everywhere and taking a ton of shots but no really solid Grade-A opportunities. Their goalie played great, but we didn't have so many inside circle shots. We were frustrated and almost trying too hard instead of making the right plays to score goals. 

"A lot of times I was shooting just to shoot when I could have made better plays. If I'm having under four shots a game I'm probably not playing my best. You still have to produce. I think we want to go in comfortable winning a 1-0 game tonight. We'd take that." 
  
Here are the projected lineups: 

STARS 

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Sharp  

Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Patrick Eaves  

Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Ales Hemsky  

Travis Moen - Vernon Fiddler - Valeri Nichushkin  

Alex Goligoski - John Klingberg  

Johnny Oduya - Jason Demers  

Patrik Nemeth - Jordie Benn  

Antti Niemi  

Kari Lehtonen  

Injured: Colton Sceviour (upper body) 

Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka - Jamie Oleksiak  

AVALANCHE 

Jarome Iginla - Nathan MacKinnon - Matt Duchene  

Gabriel Landeskog - Carl Soderberg - Blake Comeau  

Andreas Martinsen - Mikhail Grigorenko - Alex Tanguay  

Cody McLeod - John Mitchell - Jack Skille  

Francois Beauchemin - Erik Johnson  

Nick Holden - Tyson Barrie  

Zach Redmond - Chris Bigras  

Calvin Pickard 

Semyon Varlamov 

Injured: Reto Berra (ankle), Ben Street (chest), Brad Stuart (back surgery), Jesse Winchester (head) 

Scratched: Andrew Bodnarchuk, Nate Guenin, Chris Wagner  

Status report: Jordie Benn is expected to return to the Stars' lineup after missing seven of the previous nine games because of a lower-body injury ... Martinsen, a healthy scratch Tuesday against the Blackhawks, will replace Wagner on the Avalanche's third line.   

Who's hot: Klingberg has one goal and two assists in a two-game scoring streak ... Goligoski has two assists in a two-game streak ... Nichushkin has two assists in a two-game streak ... Landeskog has three goals in a two-game streak.

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