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Desperate Avs host surging Penguins

by Dave Lozo

PENGUINS (37-21-5) at AVALANCHE (33-28-4)


LAST 10:
Pittsburgh 7-2-1; Colorado 6-3-1

Season Series:
This is the second and final meeting of the season. The Penguins won 6-3 in Pittsburgh on Nov. 15.

Big Story:
The Penguins are pretty securely in the playoffs and looking to secure home-ice advantage in a first-round series as enter the final month of the season. The Avalanche, meanwhile, are in a battle for a playoff spot in the West.

Team Scope:

They are red-hot, winners of four straight and seven of nine. They're coming off a 4-3 shootout win in Dallas on Wednesday night, rallying from down a goal in the third period.

The win came at a cost, however. Defenseman Kris Letang took a hit from the Stars' Eric Nystrom that left him with concussion-like symptoms. It's the second time this season that Letang has dealt with concussion issues, and he won't play against the Avs because of it.

"It was a bad situation for Kris," coach Dan Bylsma told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "It's whether you've had one or a couple before. You're concerned for the player's health. He took a hard hit."

The Penguins are calling Letang day-to-day.

They had every reason to bring their best Wednesday night against the Blue Jackets, the NHL's 30th-place team with nothing to play for but pride. The Avs had all the motivation in the world -- a win would have moved them into eighth place in the West.

Instead, the Avs played one of their worst games of the season, losing 2-0 at home.

"It's frustrating for sure," left wing Gabriel Landeskog said. "We definitely weren't ready to play. I don't know what the reason was, but we weren't sharp enough. We were chasing the game after the first period."

Before the loss, the Avs had won four straight.

Who's Hot:
Avs goaltender Semyon Varlamov hasn't allowed more than two goals in his last five starts. … Penguins star Evgeni Malkin had an outstanding February, posting 10 goals and 10 assists in 13 games.

Injury Report:
Besides Letang, Penguins forward Steve Sullivan is questionable for this game with a lower-body injury suffered against the Stars. Tyler Kennedy has been sidelined with a high ankle sprain. … Colorado's Chuck Kobasew suffered an injury in practice Wednesday and missed the Jackets game.

Stat Pack: The Penguins allowed just 2 power-play goals in 43 shorthanded situations in February. The Avs are 4-for-29 on the power play in their last 15 games. During that stretch, the Avs have 12 games in which they've received no more than two power-play opportunities.

Puck Drop:
"I liked the response from our team. We came out hard and played well in the third period." -- Bylsma on his team's comeback win vs. Dallas

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