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NHL on NBCSN: Will the depleted Avs stay above water vs Stars?

Feb 4, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

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NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the Colorado Avalanche host the Dallas Stars at the Pepsi Center at 9:00 p.m. ET.

If the difference between a bubble team and a serious playoff contender is the ability to scrape together wins even when major players are sidelined, then we’re going to learn a lot about the Colorado Avalanche over the coming days and weeks.

For the Avalanche, it’s not the quantity of players in the sickbay that’s noteworthy, but the quality of them. Forward Steve Downie brought a unique blend of toughness and offensive ability and he’s gone for the season, forward Gabriel Landeskog is their captain and reigning Calder Trophy winner and he’s dealing with a head injury.

Now defenseman Ryan Wilson, who ranks fourth on the Avalanche in playing time, is out indefinitely due to a knee injury, according to the Denver Post. That’s all on top of the absence of 21-year-old restricted free agent Ryan O’Reilly, who is regarded as a great young two-way forward and broke out with 55 points last season.

The Dallas Stars will counter with a team that’s relatively healthy despite their own notable string of injuries and absences. Although the excepted return of Derek Roy will not bring their core of forwards back to full strength now that Ray Whitney is on the injured reserve list.

For Dallas the big x-factor is forward Jamie Benn, who missed training camp and the start of the season as a restricted free agent. The negotiations are well behind him, but he has no goals, one assist, and a minus-two rating in four games this season. Dallas needs him to be an offensive leader, but so far that hasn’t been the case.

Probable goaltenders: DAL – Kari Lehtonen (3-2-1, 2.62 GAA, .924 SV%) | COL – Semyon Varlamov (2-1-0, 2.41 GAA, .919 SV%)

Top scorers: DAL – Whitney (2-4-6, 8 GP) | COL – Matt Duchene (2-7-9, 8 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Dallas – Forwards: Whitney (foot) Goaltenders: Cristopher Nilstorp (groin)
Colorado – Forwards: David Jones (knee), Landeskog (head), Downie (knee) Defensemen: Wilson (leg)

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