Fading Avalanche play host to Devils

(SportsNetwork.com) – The Colorado Avalanche hope to return to the win column
and aid their fading playoff hopes when they host the New Jersey Devils in
Thursday’s clash at Pepsi Center.

The Avalanche are seven points out of a playoff spot in the West and had a
three-game winning streak snapped with Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to Los Angeles. The
Kings moved one point behind Winnipeg for the conference’s last wild card spot
with the victory.

Colorado was blitzed for three goals in the opening period on Tuesday and
trailed 4-1 after 40 minutes. The Avalanche played without No. 1 goaltender
Semyon Varlamov, who had started the previous 22 games before suffering a
groin injury in Sunday’s win over Minnesota.

Calvin Pickard started Tuesday’s test, but was pulled in the first period
after giving up three goals on eight shots. Reto Berra turned aside 20-of-22
shots in relief.

Varlamov missed practice on Wednesday, but he is expected to take part in
today’s morning skate and could be available to start this evening.

Tyson Barrie and Alex Tanguay lit the lamp for the Avalanche in the loss to
the Kings.

“We had to be desperate tonight,” said Barrie. “We did a good job of hanging
on in the third, but it wasn’t enough. This one stings because the first two
periods we just weren’t any good.”

Colorado, which will complete a three-game homestand Saturday against Calgary,
is 17-14-3 in Denver this season.

The Devils’ playoff hopes are in even worse shape than Colorado, with the club
sitting 12 points out of a postseason spot in the East with only 15 games left
on their schedule.

New Jersey has lost two of its last three games and followed up Sunday’s 5-2
home win over Philadelphia with a 6-2 setback in Minnesota on Tuesday. Cory
Schneider allowed five goals on 30 shots before being pulled early in the
third. Keith Kinkaid gave up a goal on eight shots in relief.

Dainius Zubrus and Scott Gomez each had a goal for the Devils.

“We let him [Schneider] down in front of the net and stuff,” said Gomez. “He’s
one of the best in the world and this year he’s been awesome. We just didn’t
help him out at all.”

The Devils are playing the middle test of a three-game road trip tonight and
will cap the swing Saturday in Arizona. Jersey has lost four of its last five
as the guest and is just 11-19-2 on the road this season.

Colorado has won three straight at home versus the Devils and owns a 6-0-1
record in the last seven overall meetings.