Avalanche-Devils Preview

The Colorado Avalanche have little room for error as they fight

for one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference. The

unexpected return of Matt Duchene could provide a lift as they

continue a difficult stretch.

Colorado will look to win its fourth straight Thursday night

when it visits the New Jersey Devils.

The Avalanche (38-30-4) are one of many teams fighting for the

final few playoff spots in the West and have surged back into

contention while going 9-3-0 in their last 12. They opened a

three-game road trip with a 5-4 shootout win over Buffalo on

Wednesday.

Jamie McGinn forced overtime by scoring with 2 seconds left in

regulation – his second goal of the game – and Peter Mueller netted

the lone shootout goal.

The Avalanche outshot the Sabres 16-8 in the third period and

42-24 overall. All three of their victories during this streak have

been decided after regulation.

“This is the biggest win of the year,” Mueller said. “To go from

zero points to getting two with seconds left, you don’t make that

stuff up. It just shows the character of this team in that we never

quit.”

The Avalanche’s trip doesn’t get any easier with visits to New

Jersey (40-25-5) and the Eastern Conference-leading New York

Rangers on Saturday as they play six of their final 10 games on the

road.

The Devils are also trying to improve their playoff seeding. In

sixth place in the East, New Jersey is two points behind

fifth-place Philadelphia.

Colorado will have some help as it continues this difficult

stretch. Duchene is expected to return to the lineup Thursday after

missing four games with an ankle injury. It was originally

anticipated he’d miss three to four weeks.

Duchene has 13 goals and 26 points in 48 games. He returned in

February after missing 20 games with a right knee injury.

While the Avalanche try to keep the momentum going, New Jersey

looks to bounce back after a 3-0 loss to Philadelphia on

Tuesday.

After defeating the Flyers 4-1 at home two nights earlier for

their fourth straight win, the Devils came out flat in the second

game of the home-and-home series. They were outshot 29-17, putting

three shots on goal in the third period.

It was the second time this month the Devils were shut out and

the third time in nine games. They had outscored their previous

four opponents 15-4.

“We were outcompeted in a lot of the small areas of the game

that we’re usually pretty good at, and it showed,” coach Pete

DeBoer said. “They were better than us.”

Ilya Kovalchuk was held without a point after recording nine in

the previous four games. He remained on 399 career goals and has

three in his last four games against the Avalanche, including one

this season.

While the Devils may call on Martin Brodeur to start again

Thursday, he gave up six goals on 25 shots in a 6-1 loss at

Colorado on Nov. 30. He has lost his last three starts against the

Avalanche.

New Jersey has won three straight at home, outscoring opponents

13-3.