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Stastny returns for Avalanche against Wild

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- Center Paul Stastny will return to the Colorado Avalanche lineup Saturday against the Minnesota Wild at Pepsi Center after missing two games because of back spasms.

Stastny took part in the Avalanche's optional skate and is expected to skate on a line with left wing Jamie McGinn and right wing PA Parenteau.

The Avalanche are looking to sweep the home-and-home series with the Wild after winning 3-1 Friday at Xcel Energy Center.

"It was actually something away from hockey; it just acted up," Stastny said of his back ailment. "To me, that's a positive. I'd rather it happen away from hockey. I wasn't comfortable doing certain things and I didn't want to put our team in jeopardy. I didn't want to play five minutes and have to leave. You want to be smart about it so it doesn't act up later."

Stastny is the Avalanche's third-leading scorer with eight goals and 17 points in 22 games. He has played a major role in the team's improvement from a year ago. Colorado is in third place in the Central Division with an 18-6-0 record and 36 points. Fourth-place Minnesota (15-8-4) is two points behind and has played three more games.

"I feel good and the team is playing well, that's the most important thing," Stastny said. "We've come together as a team and we all want the same goal, winning. We have fun with each other when we come to the rink. We have a good group of guys here and the goal is to get a 'W' at the end of the night."

The Wild didn't skate Saturday, but Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said he expects them to come out hard after losing Friday. The Wild outshot the Avalanche 16-5 in the third period.

"I guess they're going to try to start the way they did in the third," Roy said. "We can't focus on that, we have to focus on how we want to play. We want to have the same kind of start we had the last game. It's a good challenge for our team. They have a very good team and they showed a lot of things in that third period."

Roy said he hadn't heard from the NHL office regarding a possible suspension for left wing Cody McLeod, who was assessed a major boarding penalty and game misconduct in the first period Friday for his hit against Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin.

"I didn't expect any call," Roy said. "It was a call that was made on the ice and I was OK with it. I thought it was a little severe, I guess, because I'm working for Colorado. But the call was there and we accept it."

Here is the projected lineup for the Avalanche:


Gabriel Landeskog -- Matt Duchene -- Ryan O'Reilly

Jamie McGinn -- Paul Stastny -- PA Parenteau

John Mitchell -- Nathan MacKinnon -- Maxime Talbot

Cody McLeod -- Marc-Andre Cliche -- Patrick Bordeleau

Jan Hejda -- Erik Johnson

Tyson Barrie -- Nate Guenin

Andre Benoit -- Cory Sarich

Semyon Varlamov

Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Scratched: Nick Holden

Injured: Alex Tanguay (knee), Ryan Wilson (back)

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