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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Thursday, March 18th (All times eastern)

Colorado Avalanche (38-18-12-5) at Ottawa Senators (38-21-9-5), 7:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Two legitimate Stanley Cup contenders clash tonight when the Ottawa Senators welcome the Colorado Avalanche to Corel Centre.

Ottawa enters the night in a fourth-place tie with Toronto in the Eastern Conference -- three points behind Northeast Division-leading Boston. Colorado, meanwhile, is five ahead of second-place Vancouver in the Northwest race, but trails Detroit by three points in the overall Western Conference standings.

The Senators are fresh off a five-game road trip that ended with consecutive losses to Edmonton and Minnesota. On Tuesday, Ottawa dropped a 5-2 decision in St. Paul, as Marian Gaborik registered his second hat trick of the season and added a pair of assists to lead the Wild.

Marian Hossa and Bryan Smolinski scored for the Senators, who wrapped up their trek at 2-3-0. Patrick Lalime stopped just 17-of-22 shots in defeat.

Ottawa was playing without captain Daniel Alfredsson, who sat out with a bruised thigh. The Swede is questionable for this evening's contest.

The Senators, 6-0-1-1 in their last eight home games, will host Carolina on Saturday.

Colorado, meanwhile, had its surging momentum halted via Tuesday's 4-2 loss in Montreal. Rob Blake and Chris Gratton both scored for the Avalanche, who lost for the first time in the last nine meetings (6-1-2) with Montreal and saw a four-game winning streak overall come to an end.

David Aebischer stopped 25 shots for Colorado, which fell to 5-2-1 in its last eight overall.

On the injury front, the Avalanche remain without Hart Trophy winner Peter Forsberg, who is sidelined with a groin injury. He has missed 15 straight games with the ailment, and is not expected to play tonight or when the club visits Toronto on Saturday.

The Avalanche are 11-2-2-2 in their last 17 road games.

Ottawa is 4-1-1 in the last six meetings with Colorado, and the Avs are 0-4-1 in their last five trips to the Canadian capital, dating back to January 9, 1997.

03/18 10:35:13 ET

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