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Flyers, Avalanche battling for playoff position

Colorado's Duchene, MacKinnon remain sidelined

by Rick Sadowski / Correspondent

FLYERS (35-24-13) at AVALANCHE (38-31-4)

TV: 9 p.m. ET; CSN-PH, ALT, NHL.TV

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche and Philadelphia Flyers are looking to overcome losses of different kinds when they play Thursday at Pepsi Center while trying to stay in the hunt for a place in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Colorado is one point behind the Minnesota Wild for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference with a game in hand. Philadelphia and the Detroit Red Wings have 83 points each, but the Flyers have played one fewer game and hold the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

"Both of us are grinding to get into the wild card positions," Flyers goalie Steve Mason said. "I think both of us realize what's at stake tonight and both sides obviously want the two points."

The Avalanche will play their second consecutive game without leading scorers Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon, who have knee injuries.

"Adversity is part of the game," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "Every team goes through that at some point in the season, and it certainly gives an opportunity to some of our players to make up for it."

The Flyers hope to rebound from a 3-2 shootout loss Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, who scored two goals in the final 64 seconds of regulation.

"It was disappointing, but you put it behind you quickly because we have a tough test tonight," said Mason, who had 51 saves against Columbus. "If you dwell on what happened two nights ago, it's going to put you in the wrong mindset. I think as soon as we got on the plane, we were moving on. We've shown some maturity and overcome some adversity, so this will be a good test for us to respond."

The Flyers have gone 6-1-2 in their past nine games and are 1-0-1 in the first two games of a four-game road trip that ends Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes.

"Our leadership group in the locker room has been tremendous all the way through," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. "We've had our ups and we've had our downs, but over this last stretch those guys are driving the bus and they're doing a good job of it."

Without centers Duchene and MacKinnon, who have combined for 50 goals and 58 assists, the Avalanche moved Mikhail Grigorenko from left wing to the middle with left wing Mikkel Boedker and right wing Blake Comeau. Mikko Rantanen, the Avalanche's first round-pick (No. 10) in the 2015 NHL Draft, is centering the fourth line with left wing Cody McLeod and right wing Jack Skille, who was recalled Saturday from San Antonio of the American Hockey League.

Center John Mitchell was promoted to the third line, to play alongside left wing Andreas Martinsen and right wing Jarome Iginla.

"You're going to move up the depth chart and try and get a little more offense from yourself," said Mitchell, who has nine goals and eight assists in 62 games, but no goals and one assist in the past 12. "You can try and make a few more plays offensively. A guy like Jarome has scored a lot of goals in this League, so he knows where to be and you try and find him. If he's not there, get the puck to the net for a rebound opportunity."

Here are the projected lineups:


Brayden Schenn - Claude Giroux - Wayne Simmonds

Michael Raffl - Sean Couturier - Sam Gagner

Jakub Voracek - Nick Cousins - Matt Read

Scott Laughton - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Ryan White

Andrew MacDonald - Shayne Gostisbehere

Nick Schultz - Mark Streit

Brandon Manning - Radko Gudas

Steve Mason

Anthony Stolarz

Injured: Michael Del Zotto (wrist), Michal Neuvirth (lower body)

Scratched: Evgeny Medvedev, R.J. Umberger, Chris VandeVelde, Jordan Weal


Shawn Matthias - Carl Soderberg - Gabriel Landeskog

Mikkel Boedker - Mikhail Grigorenko - Blake Comeau

Andreas Martinsen - John Mitchell - Jarome Iginla

Cody McLeod - Mikko Rantanen - Jack Skille

Francois Beauchemin - Erik Johnson

Nick Holden - Tyson Barrie

Chris Bigras - Zach Redmond

Semyon Varlamov

Calvin Pickard

Injured: Matt Duchene (knee), Eric Gelinas (elbow), Nathan MacKinnon (knee), Brad Stuart (back surgery), Jesse Winchester (head)

Scratched: Andrew Bodnarchuk

Status report: Roy said he would have an injury update Sunday on Duchene and MacKinnon. Duchene was injured March 18 against the Calgary Flames, MacKinnon on Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers. Neither has skated since.

Who's hot: Giroux has a goal in each of the past two games, and four goals and eight assists in the past 12. Schenn has three assists in two games, and six goals and nine assists in his past 13. ... Boedker has three goals and four assists in nine games with the Avalanche … Matthias has an assist in three consecutive games.

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