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DALLAS —After not attending the morning skate because of illness, Avalanche

coach Patrick Roy was at the American Airlines Center with the team Thursday night. Although he said he still was a bit under the weather, he was planning to be behind the bench when Colorado faces the Dallas Stars in its final road game of the season.

Roy said he had lunch in Dallas Wednesday with Jean Martineau, the Avalanche vice president of communications, and both became ill.

"I think we had food poisoning," Roy said.

Calvin Pickard will get his first start in net since a 3-2 Colorado win in Edmonton March 20. The Avalanche scratches will be winger Andreas Martinsen and defensemen Andrew Bodnarchuk and Chris Bigras. Bigras was listed as a healthy scratch at Nashville Tuesday, but Roy said he had a minor foot injury.

"He hurt his foot and he's not comfortable, and we won't push on that," Roy said. "It's only two games left and we want to be smart with this."

Roy said of the challenge in the final two games: "I don't know if you can learn anything, but I know one thing, you have to play it for pride. Especially the last game at home (against Anaheim Saturday), we have to finish on a strong note in front of our fans. That's important."

The 39-37-4 Avalanche, mired in a four-game losing streak and a 1-6-0 stretch, has been eliminated from contention for a playoff spot.


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"We have to figure out a way to finish games," defenseman Erik Johnson said, looking forward. "I think we can count on two hands, maybe more, the leads we had going into the third that we didn't close out. I was looking at our record last night, and we didn't get too many games to overtime. You look at a lot of those other teams, they managed to get that extra point and we squandered a lot of points, especially in the last part of the year that really hurt us."

In games tied at the end of regulation, the Avs are 6-4 in overtime and 4-0 in shootouts. Their four one-point games are the fewest in the league. Colorado is 25-6-2 in games it has led after two periods and 9-7-1 when tied after two periods, so the numbers there aren't bad, but there have been other squandered leads that didn't fit in the after-two periods parameters.

The 48-23-9 Stars have something tangible to play for, since they're tied with St. Louis for the Central Division lead. The division winner will face the Minnesota Wild in the first round of the playoffs and would have home-ice advantage through the Western Conference finals.

The Stars have the tiebreaker on the Blues, so they have their destiny in their own hands as they approach the final games against Colorado and then Nashville Saturday.

Dallas will be without star center Jason Spezza, who also is ill.

"We got an early morning call, about 6, that he was up sick all night," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "There's no chance he's going to play. Even if he does feel a little bit better, it doesn't make any sense to play him."

Ruff noted that the Stars a year ago were in the same situation the Avalanche is in now — playing the final games knowing there will be no postseason.

"I don't think it was any different than how we treated the last four or five games last year, where we went out to win every game," Ruff said. "We were on the outside looking in, but asked the players to play like it means something, play like you're playing for a job. ... Every player in this league is proud to be in the league and it's a disappointment when they're sitting on the other side. There's only one thing you can do, go out and make sure you play hard. I'm pretty sure that's what's being asked next door."

Terry Frei: or @TFrei


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