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Stastny returns for slumping Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski /
DENVER – Paul Stastny will return to the Colorado Avalanche lineup tonight against the San Jose Sharks at Pepsi Center after missing three games with a torso injury. The teams will face off again Thursday in San Jose.
Stastny was injured late in the second period Dec. 4 in the Avalanche’s 4-2 win against the Detroit Red Wings. He’ll center a line with Matt Duchene and TJ Galiardi.
“It was tough being away, but I’ve been feeling better every day and I’ll be ready to go tonight,” Stastny said after the morning skate. “I just took an awkward hit and it kind of stunned me. It kind of weakened me around my torso area. It wasn’t comfortable at all. I really couldn’t push off or skate too hard or take draws or shoot pucks for a while.”
Right wing Brandon Yip suffered an apparent leg injury this morning and won’t play against the Sharks.

“He’s being re-evaluated right now,” Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said.

Without Yip, the Avalanche is down to 11 healthy forwards, so defenseman Matt Hunwick will suit up and slide between fourth-line duties and the blue line.
The victory against the Red Wings 10 days ago gave the Avalanche a three-game winning streak and completed an eight-game homestand with a 5-3 record, but the team followed it by losing all three games of a trip through Western Canada last week by the combined score of 13-3.
“No. 1, we have to try and minimize some of the mistakes that we’re making, be it with or without the puck,” Sacco said. “Another area that we can be better at is managing the puck. We were playing well before the road trip. We had a nice homestand and played solid hockey – just get back to making sure that we take care of the puck and that we play with good energy at home like we were before. We started to build something before we left for the road trip.”
The Avalanche’s power play has been in a prolonged slump, going 1-for-23 in the past seven games and 4-for-46 in a 14-game stretch. Colorado has allowed at least one power-play goal in five consecutive games, killing off just 19 of 26 penalties in that span.
The Sharks also are in a slump, posting a 2-5-1 record in eight games since rattling off a 12-2-1 record in their previous 15 games.
Like the Avalanche, the Sharks have been hampered by a poor power play and subpar penalty killing. They have gone 1-for-25 on power play in the past eight games and have permitted at least one power-play goal in five of those games, killing off just 16 of 22 penalties.
A number of the Sharks’ most talented forwards haven’t been producing of late. Patrick Marleau has gone seven games without point, Joe Pavelski has one goal and one assist in nine games, and Joe Thornton has eight assists but no goals in 11 games.
Martin Havlat has one goal – it came on a power play -- and 11 assists in 23 games this season after collecting 62 points (22 goals, 40 assists) with Minnesota in 2010-11 to tie Mikko Koivu for the team scoring lead. The Sharks acquired him July 3 in a trade that sent Dany Heatley to the Wild.
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