Stars go for season sweep against Avalanche

NHL Hockey
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The Colorado Avalanche are considered Stanley Cup contenders, but their play over the past 11 games hasn’t been up to that level, as they went 3-6-2 to fall into third place in the Central Division.

The upside for the Avalanche is they can move up a spot when they host the second-place Dallas Stars on Tuesday night. It also gives Colordo a chance to salvage a win against the division rival in the final meeting of the season between the clubs.

Dallas has won the first three meetings, the last in a shootout on Dec. 28, which kickstarted a six-game winning streak that ended Saturday night in San Jose. The Stars, despite dealing with the firing of coach Jim Montgomery on Dec. 10, have surged in the standings, going 9-4-1 since interim coach Rick Bowness took over.

Dallas wants to quickly rebound from a 2-1 loss to the Sharks, a game that was close throughout.

“We can’t be too upset with the result, but we need to learn from it and expect a lot from ourselves and a lot better from our opponent in Colorado,” Stars forward Jason Dickinson said after the game.

The Avalanche, meanwhile, have gone in the opposite direction in losing critical games within the division. They are 2-4-1 in their past seven games against the Central Division and have lost three straight overall, including a 4-3 overtime loss at home to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night.

Colorado has dealt with injuries all season but has been able to stay near the top of the standings despite that adversity. The team is close to full health, but second-line forward Joonas Donskoi is expected to miss his second straight game. He was in the concussion protocol after getting hit hard in a loss at the New York Rangers on Jan. 7 but was skating on his own before Monday’s practice.

Getting Donskoi back will help, but the Avalanche have been sputtering of late. Coach Jared Bednar was encouraged with what he saw in the loss to the Penguins.

“I have no problem with the way we played and the effort we played with. We’re doing the right things and we’re a step late here and there,” he said. “We have to be better talking and communicating on the ice. That solves a lot of problems, eliminates confusion where guys aren’t guessing. I wish we were a more vocal team.”

Tuesday’s game is the second during a five-game homestand for Colorado before the Avalanche head on the road for five games following the All-Star break.

The two days off between games will help Dallas center Joe Pavelski put behind an emotional return to San Jose. Pavelski spent his first 13 seasons with the Sharks, serving as captain for much of that time and helping them reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2016.

San Jose played a video honoring his time with the team, and the fans gave him a standing ovation.

“All the noises, all the sounds, almost everything brought back a lot of good memories,” Pavelski said after the game.

–Field Level Media

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