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Devils-Avalanche Preview

AP - Sports

The Colorado Avalanche may be without Paul Stastny again, but that may not matter much with the way Semyon Varlamov is playing.

While Stastny's availability is unclear, Varlamov is expected to start as the Avalanche seek a seventh win in nine games Thursday night against the visiting New Jersey Devils.

Colorado (29-12-5) has put together a 6-1-1 stretch, during which Stastny has a team-leading 10 points. The star center, though, suffered a leg injury during Saturday's 4-2 win at Minnesota.

The Avalanche overcame his absence Tuesday, when Tyson Barrie scored with 50.7 seconds left in overtime to secure a 3-2 win at Chicago.

"I feel our team has been able to win key games. That's positive to me," first-year coach Patrick Roy said. "It shows the character of the team. It shows the leadership that we have. It shows that our guys care. It shows that our guys want to do well, and they want to get better, and they're not satisfied.

"Obviously, it makes me really proud of them."

Colorado may have to withstand another absence from Stastny, the team's third-leading scorer who is expected to be a game-time decision.

"We'll see how Paul goes (Thursday)," Roy said.

Roy will almost surely turn to Varlamov, who is 9-0-5 with a 2.16 goals-against average in his last 15 games - 14 starts. That includes going 6-0-3 with a 2.07 GAA in nine home starts.

"He's been like this since the start of the year," Roy said after Varlamov's season-high 46-save performance Tuesday. "He's been outstanding. We rally around him."

His chances of getting a fifth straight start may only increase since back spasms kept Jean-Sebastien Giguere from dressing in Chicago. Sami Aittokallio was recalled from Lake Erie of the AHL to serve as backup.

Varlamov had 18 saves in a 6-1 win over New Jersey (20-18-10) in the most recent matchup at Pepsi Center on Nov. 30, 2011.

Ryan O'Reilly had one goal and two assists in that meeting. He enters this one with seven goals and four assists in 11 games, scoring three times over the past two.

The left wing leads Colorado with 17 goals, one shy of his career high set in 2011-12.

The Devils are starting to put together their own strong stretch behind strong goaltending, winning three of four after Tuesday's 4-1 win at Montreal. Martin Brodeur made 29 saves and New Jersey scored more than two goals for only the second time in 11 games.

The Devils' 2.33 goals per game ranks 26th.

Cory Schneider, who is expected to start Thursday, is 3-1-1 with a 1.17 GAA and one shutout in five games after going 0-3-2 with a 3.34 GAA over the previous five.

He's fourth in the league with a 1.96 GAA.

Schneider, though, struggled in his most recent visit to Denver, making 22 saves in a 4-3 loss with Vancouver April 13. He gave up the deciding goal to Jan Hejda with 7.6 seconds left in regulation.

Jaromir Jagr has 48 points in 37 career appearances against the Avalanche. The sure-fire Hall of Famer has totaled 28 of those during a 16-game road point streak against them, dating back to when they were the Quebec Nordiques.

He had one goal and two assists at Colorado in a 4-3 loss with Dallas on March 20.

Jagr, 41, leads the Devils with 38 points after scoring his 695th goal Tuesday. That's probably why he doesn't want to talk about retirement.

"I've said many times, I'm not thinking about retiring yet," he said. "I'm not counting my games yet, as long as I have fun."

Teammate Ryane Clowe has seven points in five games, and five in his last four meetings with Colorado.

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