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Home ice, special teams plaguing Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski /
DENVER -- It's been quite a while since the Colorado Avalanche could view playing at the Pepsi Center as an advantage.

The Avalanche are just 11-8-3 at home heading into Monday's game against the Detroit Red Wings, and have gone 1-4-2 there in the past seven games.

The Avalanche have lost three of the first four games on its current five-game homestand, with the only victory a 4-3 overtime win this past Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres.

"I think over the last sequence here we've had some ups and downs," Avs coach Joe Sacco said after Monday's morning practice. "We've faced some adversity, but I try to remain as patient as I can. If you look back over the first half of the season, it was a pretty good first half for us. We haven't played as good lately, but I think it's not just one or two guys that you can point the finger to; it's everybody."

The Avalanche are 2-5-2 since rattling off six consecutive wins from Dec. 10-19.

"We all need to be better," Sacco said. "We're all in this together. It's a matter of stepping up and pulling in the same direction. Every team goes through stretches during the course of the season where they haven't played as well as they'd like."

Special-teams play is an area where a great deal of improvement is needed.

The Avalanche gave up three power-play goals in Saturday's 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Islanders and have connected for only one goal in 19 man-advantage situations in the past six games, with three goals in 31 chances covering nine games.

"We have skill guys on the power play, but they have to work and compete against the four guys they're playing against," Sacco said. "I don't think we've been doing that well enough. It's taking what the opposition gives you, not forcing plays that aren't there and trying to make something out of nothing.

"To me, it's very simple -- you put pucks on the net and you get traffic in front of the goalie and the plays will open up from there. The skill will take care of itself after the work's there."

Rookie defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who has been getting plenty of power-play time, won't play against Detroit because of a foot injury he suffered blocking a shot Saturday. His place in the lineup will be taken by rookie Jonas Holos, who has been a healthy scratch in seven of the past eight games.

Peter Budaj will start in goal. He made 37 saves in the Avalanche's 4-3 overtime win against Buffalo last Tuesday in his previous start. Budaj stopped 26 shots in a 4-3 overtime loss to Detroit on Dec. 27, when the Red Wings scored four power-play goals.

"We have to find a way to win, to fight through it," team captain Adam Foote said. "We've got to get over this and get refocused."

Cumiskey close -- Avalanche defenseman Kyle Cumiskey, sidelined since Oct. 30 with a concussion, is practicing again and will accompany the team on a two-game trip that begins Wednesday in Chicago. The Avalanche also will play Friday in Minnesota.

Sacco said right wing Chris Stewart, who hasn't played since breaking his hand Nov. 27, would begin taking part in full practice sessions later this week.

Filppula feeling better -- Red Wings forward Valtteri Filppula, who has missed two games with a groin injury, said he might try to skate in the pregame warm-up to see if he can play against the Avalanche.

"I felt pretty good," he said. "Hopefully it's a go. I felt it a couple of times, but nothing serious, so I'm pretty happy about it. I'm happy how it felt right now."

If Filppula doesn't play, the Red Wings will use rookie Tomas Tatar, 20, who has 1 goal in five games since his New Year's Eve recall from AHL Grand Rapids. Tatar, the team's second-round pick (No. 60) in the 2009 Entry Draft, had 9 goals and 20 assists in 35 games with Grand Rapids.

Jimmy Howard will start in goal. Chris Osgood, who won his 400th career game against the Avalanche on Dec. 27, has a groin injury. Joey MacDonald was recalled from Grand Rapids on Sunday and will serve as Howard's backup.
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