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Avalanche at Kings, Game 16 Preview

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The Avalanche look for their third straight win and a strong start to their California road trip.

There was really no way I wouldn't pick this picture
There was really no way I wouldn't pick this picture
Doug Pensinger

Things are looking a bit better for the Avalanche of late. After a tough loss to Edmonton, the Avs responded with a pair of wins at home as they climbed back to a .500 record. That said, the best news for Avalanche fans this week has to be Gabriel Landeskog's return to the lineup. The captain and reigning Calder Trophy winner missed 11 games with a head injury after a borderline hit from San Jose's Brad Stuart. According to the Denver Post, the Avs will get another injured player back in the lineup in veteran Milan Hejduk, who missed the end of the Blues game with a torso injury. At practice yesterday Landeskog took Aaron Palushaj's spot on the Stastny line, while Hejduk skated with John Mitchell and Cody McLeod. Coach Sacco confirmed that Varlamov will get the start in net, while J.S. Giguere will likely start Sunday in Anaheim.

Today the Avs (7-7-1) and Kings (7-6-2) will both be looking for their third straight win. The last time these two teams met, the Kings jumped on the Avs early, scoring just under 5 minutes into the game and outshooting Colorado 12-6 in the opening frame. After a more even second period, the Avalanche struck back with three goals in the third period, including a power play goal from David (I only score game-winners) Jones. The Avs and Kings have both struggled to score goals so far this season, ranking 12th and 15th respectively for goals scored in the Western Conference. With two low scoring teams, it's a safe assumption that the first team to score 3 will likely take this one. Three goals may be a tall order for the Avs this afternoon as the Kings defense, which struggled with Matt Greene's absence early in the year, has tightened substantially, good for the 3rd fewest goals against in the west.

One day the Colorado Avalanche seem to be teetering on the brink of destruction, ready to trade everyone and start rebuilding again with Seth Jones, the next, they're climbing back towards the playoffs with a well earned winning streak over two solid playoff teams. As if this season hasn't been enough of a roller coaster ride, the Avs are now hanging in limbo, just 3 points out of the playoffs in the West and..... 3 points out of last place. Small sample size be damned, today's game will essentially decide the future of this team (maybe), so please prepare for either euphoric celebration or extreme panic in the postgame thread.

Go Avs

Expected Lineup:

Gabriel Landeskog - Paul Stastny - David Jones
Jamie McGinn - Matt Duchene - P.A. Parenteau
Cody McLeod - John Mitchell - Milan Hejduk
Patrick Bordeleau/Mark Olver/Aaron Palushaj/Chuck Kobasew

Ryan O'Byrne - Matt Hunwick
Greg Zanon - Shane O'Brien/Stefan Elliott
Jan Hejda - Tyson Barrie

Semyon Varlamov

What to watch for?

Firsts: Despite playing his role remarkably well and creating some decent offensive chances, Patrick Bordeleau is still looking for his first NHL point. Stefan Elliott is also looking for his first point of the season, while the entire blue line (minus Barrie) is still without a goal.

Jekyl and Hyde: There doesn't seem to be a middle ground for the Avs this season and goals are really coming in bunches. Either its a barn burner or the Avs get shut out cold. Be looking for the Avs to really try and control the pace of this game and not let it get away from them like Nashville and Edmonton last week.

First Goal: The Avs have only scored the first goal 5 times this season. They've won 4 of those games. They should do this more.

Game Time: 2:00 pm MT, 10:00 GMT TV: ALT,NHLN-US Radio: ALT