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Avs Prepare For The Predators

Colorado Hosts Nashville On Thursday Night At Pepsi Center

Wednesday, 03.30.2011 / 12:44 PM MT / Features
By Aaron Lopez  - Special to
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Avs Prepare For The Predators
The postseason is out of the picture for the Avalanche, but the club can still have a say as to who gets into the playoffs and where they are seeded at the end of the season.

Colorado’s next two games will come against teams who would be in the postseason if it started today, but both of those teams are still trying to solidify their positions.

The Avalanche will host the Nashville Predators (currently in the No. 6 spot in the Western Conference) on Thursday night before flying to Arizona for a contest against the Phoenix Coyotes (No. 4) on Friday.

Of Colorado’s five other remaining games, three will be played against clubs who are just outside the postseason picture looking in. Colorado will face the No. 10 Calgary Flames at Pepsi Center on Sunday, followed by a back-to-back road/home set with the Dallas Stars (No. 9) next Thursday and Friday.

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But for now, the focus is on Nashville, which comes into Denver with a 3-0 advantage in the season series.

“They’re a good team and they play well,” said defenseman John-Michael Liles. “They’re solid defensively and they play hard and in your face. They’re just a solid team from top-to-bottom, all four lines. They play together as a team and they’re well-coached.”

Nashville may not have any forwards on its roster who are widely considered “superstars,” but one thing it does possess is a lot of offensive punch on the back line. In fact, the Predators are the only team in the NHL on which a defenseman holds at least a share of the club’s lead in points.

All-Star blueliner Shea Weber (16g/30a) is tied atop the club’s scoring chart with forward Martin Erat (15g/31a) with 46 points.

“He’s a guy you have to be aware of. You have to know where he is on the ice, because he does have that shot,” Liles said of Weber. “He and (Ryan) Suter play well together. It’s no secret that they’re always out there together. They play a lot of minutes and they’re guys you have to be aware of all the time.”

Center Paul Stastny didn’t practice with the club today, but it was considered a maintenance day for the assistant captain and he’s expected to be in the lineup tomorrow. Brian Elliott will start in goal for Colorado.

Wilson Working His Way Back
Avalanche defenseman Ryan Wilson skated on his own prior to Wednesday’s practice, but was not on the ice for the team’s official skate.

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The blueliner last played on March 24 against Toronto, a game he left during the second period after sustaining a knee injury. Wilson joined the Avalanche on its recent two-game road swing through Southern California to continue his rehab, but didn’t suit up against either the Los Angeles Kings or the Anaheim Ducks.

The Avalanche currently has nine defensemen on its roster after reassigning Shawn Belle and Cameron Gaunce to the Lake Erie Monsters following the Anaheim game, but Kyle Cumiskey (whiplash) and Kyle Quincey (shoulder) have been ruled out for the season, dropping that number to seven.

The injuries to Wilson and captain Adam Foote –who is recovering from a leg injury and did not practice today – leave Colorado with only five healthy blueliners at the moment.

There was no official update on Wilson’s health today, but if he isn’t ready to play tomorrow, the Avs will likely call up a defenseman from Lake Erie.

With the Avs short on the blue line, David Koci subbed in on the back end during Thursday’s practice. Koci has filled that role many times in the past when injuries have hit the team or when players have stayed off the ice for maintenance purposes.

Koci grew up playing defense and continued in that role during his five years in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ organization. Only during the 2006-07 season, his first within the Chicago Blackhawks’ farm system, did Koci begin skating as a forward on occasion. The Prague native is currently in just his third full season playing as a forward on a full-time basis.
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