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Preview: Colorado Avalanche @ Dallas Stars (7:30pm CST)

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7:30pm CST on your cathode ray tubes relaying Fox Sports Southwest in all its analog glory.

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Stars have earned points in five of their last six games. That would be a titch more encouraging if three of them had not been overtime losses.

Yes, the Stars went beyond 60 minutes once again Tuesday night, opening this four-game homestand against the New Jersey Devil only to see their fifth loss and five such contests this season. They're getting healthier, they're earning points- But they've dropped 11 of 17 to open the year.

The homestand continues tonight as the Colorado Avalanche come calling- Those Avs took down the Stars 6-5 on October 15th in Denver in their only other meeting so far this year.

The Stars continue to try to survive without formal practices, something said to be key to Ruff's system last season after a stretch of bad play.

"We made today optional," Ruff told media of Wednesday's practice. "To me, we were a team that lacked energy last night. Although it was a day off before, it was five in eight and we just finished four in six. Sometimes it is just the mental grind."

Along those that did participate was center Cody Eakin, sidelined with a knee injury during training camp on September 23rd- The six-to-eight week diagnosis is about up, and he's right on schedule, though isn't a lock for tonight's action. It does sound like he'll re-enter the lineup Saturday at the latest- Check back after morning skate.

Also a possibility to return on Saturday is Patrick Sharp, who continues to skate with the team. With Spezza's returns these are blessings, of course- But just as Ruff was finding some mojo with what he had to work with. These new (old) bodies will have to be worked in against intense, sometimes divisional opposition. Another challenge in a challenge season, but one they're glad to take on.

The mysterious Jiri Hudler absence continues through what's an undefined illness at this point. Send your thoughts and prayers as that elongates.

The Avalanche are dealing with injuries on a far smaller scale- Matt Duchene has been out for a couple of games after concussion like symptoms, but as is custom, seems to be ready to make his return against the Stars in a building he loves.

"It felt good," he told media after a full-contact practice Wednesday. "I feel better every day. Things kind of settle in as you're healing, you feel better as the day goes on. Today I felt like I was able to be myself out there."

'Himself' would be bad for Dallas. He's recorded 27 points in 29 career games against the Stars, and the only team he's victimized more is the Edmonton Oilers (29 points in 27 games).

Also in the "hurt but probably not" bucket is Gabriel Landeskog, who was said to be "dinged up" in being given a maintenance day Wednesday- But reports are that he'll be fine to go this evening.

The Avs have been up and down lately- Defeating the Kings soundly 4-1 in their last outing after getting shutout by Boston 2-0. They defeated the Jets in overtime, but lost to the Coyotes 4-2. They beat the Wild 1-0 but lost to the Blues 5-1. So they're a little bit all over the map.

It's feast or famine for Colorado on offense this season. in 15 games they've been held to two or fewer nine times already- Including a stretch where they scored just three total goals in four games. Their greatest offensive output? Their opening night against the Stars in a 6-5 win.

They sit 7-8-0 on the season after a 3-1-0 start, and have won both overtime contests in which they've taken part.

Semyone Varlamov will be in net for the Avs, of course. This has been their lineup without Duchene, who will slide into the top six tonight-

Landeskog-Mackinnon-Colborne
Bourque-Soderberg-Rantanen
Martinsen-Grigorenko-McLeod
Comeau-Mitchell-Iginla

Zadorov-Johnson
Tyutin-Barrie
Beauchemin-Gelinas

Their awesome speed and forecheck were something to behold against the Stars on October 15th as Ruff's bunch just couldn't keep up at their own fast-paced game. With last change and a dinged up roster it will be interesting to see how the Stars choose to attack this one.

From Stars PR:

AVALANCHE WARNING

The Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche meet on Thursday night for the second of five meetings between the two clubs during the 2016-17 season. The Stars have collected points in five of the last eight games (3-2-3) on home ice against the Avalanche, recording a 1-1-0 record last season at American Airlines Center. In the first meeting of the 2016-17 season on Oct. 15 at Pepsi Center, the Avalanche defeated the Stars, 6-5. Forward Tyler Seguin tied a game-high with three points (2-1=3) and four other Stars players recorded multi-point games including captain Jamie Benn (1-1=2), forward Patrick Eaves (0-2=2), forward Devin Shore (1-1=2) and forward Brett Ritchie (1-1=2). Dallas went 2-for-4 on the power play and 1-of-3 on the penalty kill against Colorado.

ROUS IS ON THE LOOSE

Stars forward Antoine Roussel registered an assist (0-1=1) against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night and is riding a career-best seven-game point streak (3-6=9), which is the longest active point streak in the NHL. Prior to Tuesday night, Roussel had potted goals in three consecutive games for Dallas (3-2=5) from Nov. 10 - 13, which set a new career-long for the forward. The Roubaix, France native currently paces the NHL with 54 penalty minutes and his 12 points (4-8=12) in 17 games rank fourth on the Stars. He has recorded three multi-point games this season, which matches his total from the 2015-16 campaign and is the most he's recorded since the 2013-14 season, when he logged a career-best five multi-point outings. Earlier this season, Roussel earned an assist (0-1=1) for his 100th career point on Oct. 18 at Nashville to become the first Frenchman in NHL history to reach the century mark. The forward has now registered 109 points (51-58=109) in 297 career NHL games. Roussel has points in four of his last six games against Colorado (2-2=4) and has four points (2-2=4) in 17 career contests against them.