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Devils begin four-game road trip against Avalanche

by Brian Hunter
DEVILS (12-9-1) at AVALANCHE (10-13-1)


Last 10:
New Jersey 6-4-0; Colorado 3-7-0

Season series:
First of two meetings, with Colorado visiting New Jersey on March 15, 2012. The Avalanche beat the Devils at Prudential Center in the most recent matchup, 3-2, on Oct. 15, 2010. TJ Galiardi finished with a goal and an assist.

Big story: For a team with a talented young nucleus, Colorado finds itself in the bottom third of the NHL in scoring, averaging just 2.46 goals per game. Third-year forward Matt Duchene has a team-leading 9 goals and 17 points, but the Avalanche could use someone in the group of Milan Hejduk, David Jones and Paul Stastny -- all of whom have 7 goals and 14-15 points -- to step up his scoring and give the offense a boost.

Team Scope:

This is the start of a four-game road trip for New Jersey, which also faces a pair of division leaders in Minnesota and Toronto, and makes its first trip to Winnipeg in nearly 16 years. Bidding for a home-and-home sweep of the Islanders this past weekend, the Devils were dealt a 3-2 defeat on Saturday when Zach Parise's apparent game-tying goal with 2.1 seconds left was overturned when video review determined he had "used his right skate to propel the puck into the net." Goals by Adam Larsson and Adam Henrique had erased earlier one-goal deficits.

"I watched the play, I'm not sure I agree with the decision," coach Peter DeBoer said. "Based on my view of the replays, I wouldn't consider what I saw a distinct kicking motion, but I don't get to make those decisions. You live with it, and you move on."

With three left to play on a mammoth eight-game homestand, Colorado only has two wins so far and continues to struggle at Pepsi Center. The Avalanche have scored just two goals in their last three defeats, with Kevin Porter managing the lone tally in Monday's 3-1 loss to the Stars. On the plus side, new No. 1 goalie Semyon Varlamov, who has struggled in making the transition to Denver after an offseason trade from the Capitals, turned in a solid outing with 32 saves. Varlamov has allowed just a pair of goals in each of his past three starts.

"We're squeezing the sticks. It's very frustrating," Hejduk told the Denver Post. "We weren't good enough. We aren't scoring goals. We got good enough goaltending to win again, but we let him down."

Who's hot:
Larsson, the No. 4 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, is starting to display his offensive upside for the Devils with 1 goal and 4 assists during a five-game points streak. … Stefan Elliott, a second-round pick by the Avalanche in 2009, scored in his NHL debut Saturday against the Oilers and assisted on Porter's goal against the Stars.

Injury report:
New Jersey forwards Travis Zajac (Achilles), Jacob Josefson (collarbone) and Eric Boulton (hand) are on injured reserve. … Colorado forward Peter Mueller (concussion) and defenseman Erik Johnson (groin) are on injured reserve.

Stat pack: Parise is off to a slow start for the Devils, with just 6 goals and 12 points in 22 games, but his 77 shots lead the team by a wide margin -- Petr Sykora's 59 are second. … Gabriel Landeskog, taken just ahead of Larsson this past summer with the No. 2 pick, leads the Avalanche with 79 shots.

Puck drop:
When it comes to special teams, New Jersey has been much better off this season while shorthanded. The Devils have the League's top-ranked penalty kill (94.2 percent) and have scored three shorthanded goals. However, their power play checks in at 26th (12.8 percent) and has allowed a League-high five shorthanded goals, including Michael Grabner's game-winner in the third period against the Islanders on Saturday.

"It's deflating," goalie Martin Brodeur said. "I think you get an opportunity to try to take the game to a different level, and you get scored on. It's tough. These are momentum switchers in a game that are tough for guys to handle mentally, and especially to go back on the power play after, you're a little more tentative."

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