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Sakic, Stastny practice with Avs, expect to play on road trip @NHLdotcom

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -Joe Sakic and Paul Stastny took part in practice Tuesday as the struggling Colorado Avalanche moved closer to getting their top two offensive players back in the lineup.

Stastny could play as early as Wednesday against Anaheim during the first game of a five-game road trip. Sakic will travel with the team and hopes to play during the trip.

"We don't really have a timetable. We're going to see how it progresses," said Sakic, who has missed 36 games after surgery to repair a sports hernia. "As long as it keeps getting better, you never know. There's not a date set for us."

Colorado has struggled with its star centers out. The Avs have scored three goals in their last four games, all losses, including a 4-0 shutout against Detroit on Monday night. They've slipped to 10th in the Western Conference standings, two spots back of the last playoff seed with 22 games left.

Stastny leads the team in scoring with 49 points despite missing the last 14 games. He is recovering from a groin injury he suffered while trying to return from an appendectomy.

"I've been pushing it more and every day, I've felt better and better," he said. "I wouldn't be going on the road trip if I didn't think I'd play, so I'm pretty optimistic to be playing. Once I'm 100 percent I'll be ready to go."

Sakic led the team in scoring last year with 100 points and has not played since Nov. 30, when he injured his groin against San Jose. At first he was expected to miss a few weeks, but he underwent surgery Dec. 28.

"It was frustrating at first, but once I realized we had to do the surgery, then you knew how long you were going to be out," said Sakic, who had never missed more than 24 games in his 19-year career before this injury. "Now that I'm skating, you're chomping at the bit to get back."

He began skating last week, and took part in some drills with the team Tuesday but did not take contact.

"The last couple of days I've been going hard," Sakic said. "It's still pretty tight, but you've got to work through that."

Despite their struggles, the team doesn't want to put Sakic or Stastny back in the lineup before either one is ready.

"We'll make sure when they're ready to play, they're ready to play," Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. "They're a lot closer than they've been. We expect both of them to play at some point on the trip."

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