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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Tuesday, December 31st (All times Eastern)

Columbus Blue Jackets (17-18-4) at Colorado Avalanche (23-11-4), 8 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Colorado Avalanche aim to avoid a season-high fifth straight defeat on Tuesday night as they continue their lengthy homestand in a matchup with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Avs logged just an 0-1-2 record on a three-game swing through Los Angeles, San Jose and Chicago -- where they faced three of the top teams in the Western Conference -- and then began a seven-game homestand on Sunday with a 2-1 overtime setback to the Winnipeg Jets.

Blake Wheeler scored the overtime winner for the Jets with 1.7 seconds on the clock, redirecting the puck between the pads of Semyon Varlamov.

Varlamov made 35 saves and didn't allow his first goal until 11:42 into the third period. Colorado rookie Nathan MacKinnon answered for his club just 29 seconds later to tie the game.

"We have to be able to hang on there (at the end)," said MacKinnon. "We have to generate more shots and be a little more simple-minded, especially in physical games like that."

MacKinnon, the top overall pick of the 2013 draft, scored his ninth goal of the season and logged his 22nd point. He could see an increased role after forward P.A. Parenteau suffered a knee injury in Sunday's loss that is expected to keep him out for six weeks.

The 30-year-old Parenteau has nine goals and 15 assists in 38 games this season.

The Blue Jackets will try to rebound tonight after having a season high-tying three-game win streak snapped with Sunday's 5-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who got three goals and two assists from forward James Neal.

Brandon Dubinsky, Corey Tropp and Nikita Nikitin lit the lamp for the Blue Jackets, and Curtis McElhinney made 25 saves, but Pittsburgh went 3-for-6 on the power play.

"They scored on 50 percent of their power play and that just can't happen," said Dubinsky.

Columbus will open a four-game road trip tonight and could get a pair of key players back on the swing.

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has been out since suffering a groin injury on Dec. 3 and practiced on Monday. The 25-year-old reigning Vezina Trophy winner is 10-11-2 with a 2.72 goals against average and .909 save percentage in 23 starts this season.

Also, forward Nathan Horton continues to practice and is closing in on his season debut with Columbus. He signed a seven-year, $37.1 million deal with the Blue Jackets this offseason, but has yet to play due to shoulder surgery he underwent not long after signing with Columbus.

Though Bobrovsky could be back soon, McElhinney is likely to start tonight and is 2-1-0 with a 2.67 GAA in three career starts versus the Avalanche.

Columbus has won four of its last five versus the Avalanche and has claimed three of its past four in Colorado.

Varlamov will start for the Avs and is 3-2-1 with a 1.66 GAA and two shutouts lifetime versus the Jackets.

12/31 10:57:28 ET

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