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Colorado Avalanche Game Day: Two points are a necessity

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The Avalanche travel to Dallas looking to climb into a playoff spot

Colorado Avalanche v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Every game is a big one this time of year — but as the Colorado Avalanche travel to Dallas, their Thursday night game against the Stars feels monumental.

A win in regulation on Thursday will pull the Avalanche within one point of the Stars for the first Wild Card spot in the Western Conference, assuming Minnesota loses. If the Avs are hoping to make the playoffs for a second straight season, a win in these division matchups are going to be what gets them there.

It’s not going to be an easy task, as Dallas has an impressive 20-10-2 record at home this season. The Stars are one of the lowest scoring teams in the league, boasting just 167 goals for over 66 games — so the Avs will be looking to jump out to a quick lead and get a few past Ben Bishop in the opening 20 minutes.

Without a regulation win in their last five games, two points are absolutely imperative if the Avalanche want to keep pace with the rest of the Western Conference.


Colorado Avalanche

On Wednesday, the team announced that they would be without Nikita Zadorov for their Thursday night tilt — and possibly longer — so it’s going to be up to rookie Ryan Graves to fill the hole on the blue line.

Graves has been very impressive through his first 20 NHL games this season, so the drop off shouldn’t be too substantial. The biggest concern for the Avs blue line is whether or not Ian Cole can return to his pre-injury form. He has struggled getting his game back since returning from the broken orbital bone.

The addition of Derick Brassard at the trade deadline has brought a little more depth to the lineup, though, and has allowed the team to re-unite the big-3. The top line looked great on Tuesday night in the overtime win against Detroit.

The team recalled Andrew Agozzino before leaving for Dallas on Wednesday; we’re not sure yet if Coach Bednar is going to insert him into the lineup.

FORWARDS

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen

Derick Brassard - Tyson Jost - Matt Calvert

Colin Wilson - Carl Soderberg - J.T. Compher

Sven Andrighetto - Alexander Kerfoot - Sheldon Dries

DEFENSE

Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson

Patrik Nemeth - Tyson Barrie

Ryan Graves - Ian Cole


Dallas Stars

Dallas is currently riding the hot hand, coming into their game against Colorado on a three-game win streak that has pushed them back into the playoff picture following a bout of struggles.

On the whole, they’ve struggled with scoring this year — something that showed itself in their inability to get more than one goal past Alexandar Georgiev on Tuesday night in a 1-0 shutout win.

They picked up their pace with a crucial 4-1 win over the Blues in the game before that, though. And although captain Jamie Benn is still sitting on a significantly diminished overall scoring pace on the year, he’s up to 24 goals and counting; even in what’s largely been considered an ‘off’ year for him he’s managing to put up respectable numbers. Add in that Tyler Seguin has 60 points in 66 games and Alexander Radulov is on nearly a point-per-game pace himself, and the team has promise despite their top-heavy stature.

The biggest letdown for Dallas was the injury to Mats Zuccarello in his first game following the trade deadline, but the immediate loss of a promising weapon is a benefit for Colorado. As they face another top-heavy team, the Avalanche can use every advantage they can get their hands on.

PROJECTED LINES


Starting Goalies

Coming off of a 28 save shutout against the New York Rangers, Ben Bishop is going to be back in net for the Stars tonight. He’s missed a bunch of time this season, but when he’s healthy Bishop has been one of the best in the game. He comes into tonight with a 21-14-2 record and a .928 sv%.

For the Avs, Semyon Varlamov is going to be back between the pipes. With two wins in his last three games, he has been playing a lot better lately as he continues to crawl his season sv% back to a respectable level.