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Penguins to play without Crosby vs. Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will play without captain Sidney Crosby for the first time this season when they visit the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on Sunday night due to an upper-body injury.

Crosby leads the NHL with 102 points (36 goals, 66 assists) in 78 games.

The Penguins, who lost 4-0 to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday and have gone 1-1-0 in the first two games of a three-game road trip, will also be without forward Chris Kunitz (lower body) and defensemen Brooks Orpik (lower body) and Olli Maata (upper body). The Penguins said none of the injuries are expected to be long-term.

Center Jussi Jokinen was scratched Saturday because of an upper-body injury, but will play against the Avalanche.

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to start for the Penguins. He has a 5-2-0 career record against the Avalanche with a 2.32 goals-against average and .911 save percentage.

The Colorado Avalanche will take a six-game winning streak into their regular-season home finale.

Goalie Semyon Varlamov, who has won a career-high 40 games, will start his eighth consecutive game with a chance to break coach and former star goalie Patrick Roy's franchise record for wins in a season. Roy won 40 games in 2000-01 when the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup for the second time.

Varlamov also has matched Roy's franchise record for wins at home (24), set in 2000-01. He has limited teams to 12 goals during the Avalanche's winning streak and made 31 saves Saturday in a 4-0 road win against the St. Louis Blues.

"The way he's been playing for us, he's our Hart Trophy winner," Roy said Sunday. "He's been outstanding in every game lately. What impressed me is the commitment he made in the summer to be ready for this year and the commitment he made every time he stepped on the ice."

Colorado (50-21-6) is second in the Central Division and has clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009-10.

Here is the projected lineup for Colorado:

Gabriel Landeskog - Paul Stastny - John Mitchell

Ryan O'Reilly - Nathan MacKinnon - Jamie McGinn

Maxime Talbot - Marc-Andre Cliche - Patrick Bordeleau

Ryan Wilson - Brad Malone - Paul Carey

Jan Hejda -- Erik Johnson

Andre Benoit -- Nate Guenin

Nick Holden - Tyson Barrie

Semyon Varlamov

Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Scratched: Reto Berra, Nate Guenin

Injured: Matt Duchene (knee), Cody McLeod (ankle), PA Parenteau (knee), Cory Sarich (back), Alex Tanguay (hip surgery)

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