Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Post-game vs Nashville - Jan 30, 2007

Oh man what a scary ending! It looked like the game was all wrapped up but a weak attempt at a clear by Wolski and a quick shot past an unsuspecting Budaj gave some drama to this ending. The Avalanche came away with the 4-3 win in a pretty solid game overall. The Avalanche played the body, they worked better in the corners, and they played some pretty solid D. They got a big goal from Milan Hejduk to start the third period and it stood up as the winner in a nail-biting finish.

Peter Budaj played well and was countered at the other end by some solid tending from Tomas Vokoun. Budaj was bailed out by the post a few times during a 4 minute powerplay but you know what they say, you gotta be good to be lucky. And Budaj was very good tonight, save for being caught relaxing on the third goal. In his defense, who expected Wolski to toss the puck away like that!

The Avalanche actually spent some time pushing Nashville around. They actually dealt out more than they took! The official scoresheet gave the Avs 19 hits and the Preds 18. Klee, Richardson, and Laperriere were the main contributors with 3, 4, and 3 respectively. Klee was very noticeable in dishing out checks and rubbing opposing players off the puck. Laperriere was his usual self and Richardson made some good finishing checks. Nothing crushing, but the sort of basic physical play the Avalanche have been lacking.

On the opposite side of that, Ossi Vaananen still seems to get pushed around in the corners. I don't recall once seeing him go in for the puck and come away with it. He seems to try and roll off the check and fish for the puck when he should actually be initiating the contact. There's a reason he only got 12 minutes of ice-time tonight.

Jordan Leopold and Kurt Sauer were the top defensive pairing tonight, just beating out Brett Clark and Karlis Skrastins. I was very happy with Leopold's play. He made some great defensive plays and seems to be positioned very well in front of the net. Kurt Sauer played well but still looks a bit shaky at times. He just doesn't make good snap decisions and that second of hesitation is all it takes for the opposition to get all over him and take the puck away.

Milan Hejduk and Marek Svatos seemed to find some chemistry early on in the game but were never able to bury any of their opportunities. Then Svatos made a few weak defensive plays and found himself with limited ice-time towards the end of the game. The kids got wheels and does put in effort on the back-check, he's just still not defensively responsible enough and seems to have lost his finishing touch. He fired off 6 shots and nothing got through but you have to believe if he keeps doing that, the goals should come.

Wojtek Wolski had a great game and has really rounded out his play lately. He didn't get much time on the PK tonight, 50 seconds, but when he was out there he managed to get the puck and clear the zone. That's about all you want from penalty killing! He scored another good, hard-working goal in front of the net to put the Avs up 3-2. He came away with a +2 rating on the night while logging the most minutes of any forward.

Brad Richardson looked to be in some pain during the second period and only had one shift in the third period after putting in a lot of ice-time in the first. So he may have had a slight injury that didn't take him off the ice, but Q didn't want to take a chance on making it worse. Mark Rycroft was inserted in the lineup and didn't do much other than checking Kimo Timmonen from behind. So I give him immediate negative marks for that. Brett Mclean didn't get huge minutes but was certainly trying to make the best of every shift he had and managed to get on the scoreboard with an assist on the 2nd goal.

So it was a good start to Avalanche's five-game homestand. Let's hope they keep it up Thursday as they welcome the Wild who managed to down St. Louis tonight to stay 4 points up on the Avalanche.

The Good
- multi-point game by Sakic
- better physical play
- better puck possession
- better defensive posture

The Bad
- PK getting owned
- giving up 37 shots

The Ugly
- Wolski missing a wide open net in the 2nd

Pre-game vs Nashville - Jan 30, 2007

The Colorado Avalanche open a five-game homestand tonight as the Nashville Predators make their way into town. The Predators are on a 4 game winning streak and have won 9 of their last 10. The Avalanche are on a 3 game losing streak and are 5-3-2 in their last 10. That record is not reflective of their play as they are more deserved of a 3-7-0 record but I'll take it! The Avalanche are within 4 points of Minnesota and have 2 games in hand. Some quick math says that a 2 game win streak puts the team right back in the hunt.

After the teams performance against Detroit, many players, including Joe Sakic, were highly critical of how the team played. Sakic called it their worst game of the year and I can't say I disagree with that. Arguments about the high-stick goal aside, the Avs did not deserve to be anywhere in the same league as Detroit. They were out-muscled and out-hustled and that has to change. Especially coming up against a speedy team like Nashville.

Peter Budaj gets the start in goal tonight, much to the chagrin of folks who thought Jose Theodore put in a solid performance against the Wings. I agree that he put in a great performance against them but if Q is trying to send a message that Peter Budaj is the starter and Theodore is the backup, then this is the way to do it. Budaj had a shaky game so he got one game off to relax and gets put right back into it, no matter how well the backup played. I want Theodore to play as I'm a big fan of French-Canadian goalies, but I have to trust that the coach knows what he's doing. And lately, that does seem to be the case.

Patrice Brisebois is now officially out for the season and Francois Giguere will be applying for long-term injury relief to gain back some of his salary under the cap. Given that he is looking to do that, I think we will see a deal happen before/at the deadline. There's no reason to free up cap room if it isn't to give some wiggle room to make a deal. It wouldn't surprise me if the Avs are still just barely out of a playoff spot come the trade deadline so a good pickup might push them back into the thick of the race.

With the absence of both Brisebois and Liles, it leaves an offensive hole on the blueline which is sorely needed. The teams breakout skills at the moment are horrendous. It all starts with that first pass out of the zone and, as much as people deride him, Brisebois was good at starting rushes. Liles is also no slouch and it sounds like he should be back in slightly over a week. He's been practicing with the team already and hopefully he'll come back wearing extra padding on his skate. I think all defensemen should look at wearing those as they're in the line of fire a lot.

Brisebois - back, IR (out for season)
Liles - foot, IR
May - shoulder, IR

Zidlicky - flu, day-to-day

Stastny has 11 in 11, Sakic has 8 in 7, Brunette has 7 in 7, Laperriere has 3 in 3, Clark has 3 in 2.

Legwand has 7 in 3, Kariya has 7 in 4, Dumont has 12 in 12, Erat has 6 in 3, Arnott has 3 in 2.

Svatos has 0 in 6, Hejduk has 0 in 3, Arnason has 0 in 3.

Hartnell has 1 in 4.

Peter Budaj - 15-10-3, 2.58 GAA, .909 save pct.
Tomas Vokoun - 15-4-1, 2.44 GAA, .918 save pct.

Colorado - 24-21-4, 4th in NW, 9th in West
Nashville - 36-12-3, 1st in Central, 1st in West (and 1st in the league)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Post-game vs Detroit - Jan 28, 2007

I'm actually not looking forward to these NBC games anymore. Every time they happen, the Avs get dominated by the Wings and it makes me sad. Well actually most times the Avs play the Wings they got dominated so I can't blame NBC. It would just be too easy to point to one thing and blame this season on it. It's a comedy of errors that has the team in the hole they're in.

I thought Theodore had a very good game. I didn't catch the first period so can't comment much there, however he seemed to really settle down in the third. He came up with some big saves, including some good glove saves which is great to see. His glove has always been a trouble spot and he flashed it out a few times. He still needs to work on sucking the puck into his body and dumping rebounds to the corners. Other than that, I'd say he was the best Avalanche on the ice tonight.

I would put Paul Stastny as a close second. He really had some legs tonight and was doing some good forechecking. A hard forecheck is something the Avalanche sorely need so it's good to see Stastny step up there and show some folks how it's done. He's very calm and poised out there and has a great work ethic. I'm looking forward to seeing him in an Avs uniform for a long time.

No matter what those two did though, it couldn't make up for a terrible showing by the team. When you get outshot 41-11, that's just plain embarrasing. That doesn't include the 20 blocked shots the Avalanche had. To come away with a 3-1 win is damn near a moral victory in light of the shellacking they received in every other category. They were simply outhustled in total. The Wings beat them to every puck and just put a licking on them in the Avalanche end. It felt like a perpetual powerplay for the Wings.

Milan Hejduk had a very off game tonight. He was coughing the puck up a lot and just couldn't do anything right. It wasn't for lack of trying as he was flying out there, he just had one of those nights. And to go with the wheels of Hejduk was Marek Svatos. He really had some jump out there and made a few nice moves. He's just not strong enough to finish on those in tight plays. He's far too easy to knock off the puck.

Ben Guite had another solid game. He ended up with 17:47 in ice-time and that's really all that needs to be said. You don't end up with near top-line minutes if you're not out there working hard, finishing checks, and being a pest. He was good on the faceoff again and just looks extremely confident out there. He created a few rushes while on the PK and, although he came away with a -1 rating, is deserving of some credit.

On the worse side of the +/- was Brett Clark and Karlis Skrastins. This pair is really hit and miss at times. Some games they are hot, other games they are lukewarm. And sometimes it fluctuates during the game. They were shot-blocking machines out there but I really think they're showing signs of carrying the defensive load the last while. These aren't #1 d-men and can't handle those type of minutes without having some brain cramps. Witness the play Clark made on the PP that led to a huge shorthanded chance by the Wings. Theodore bailed him out, but not before Clark had taken a hooking penalty, negating the Avs chances at a momentum swing (if the chance really existed).

The Good
- good game by Theodore
- umm....

The Bad
- badly outshot
- badly outhit (if you take away Lappy's play)
- badly outchanced
- badly outplayed
- embarassed by Detroit again

The Ugly
- Lidstrom taking a puck to the ear (just beat out Chelios' mug)

Pre-game vs Detroit - Jan 28, 2007

It's an afternoon game today as the Red Wings play host to the Avalanche. The game is televised on TSN but I will unfortunately miss the first period while I play some volleyball. Or I could go down with an "injury" and be back in time. Who knows!

After the gut-wrenching loss to the Coyotes last night, I can only hope that the entire team comes out firing. We've shown that we can steal a point or two from the Wings this season but still haven't shown to be in their league as far as overall play is concerned. Thankfully the Wings appear to be on a bit of a downturn. Or that could work in their favor!

It's a pretty big story for Avalanche fans as Jose Theodore gets his first start since he played against Dallas way back in December. Yep, a month of riding the pine and het gets tossed in against one of the most potent offenses in the West. Seems like an odd time to put him in but either way, I hope for nothing but the best from him.

He's been working hard in practice and has been an extremely good backup to Budaj so how could you not hope that he does well. Oh, and don't forget that if he does well, then the team might pick up a point or two. And hopefully that's what really matters to people.

It's a short entry today as I have to run but being able to see the game will give me a long post-game writeup.

Liles - foot, IR
Brisebois - back, IR
May - shoulder, IR

Samuelsson - foot, IR
Schneider - knee, IR
Draper - flu, day-to-day
Lang - flu, day-to-day

Laperriere and Clark have 3 in 2, Sakic has 8 in 6, Stastny has 16 in 15, Brunette has 4 in 3.

Franzen has 3 in 3.

Svatos has 0 in 5, Wolski has 1 in 4.

Maltby has 0 in 14, Williams has 0 in 5, Datsyuk and Zet

Jose Theodore - 9-10-1, 3.13 GAA, .897 save pct
Dominik Hasek - 25-8-3, 2.03 GAA, .911 save pct

Colorado - 24-20-4, 4th in NW, 9th in West
Detroit - 30-14-6, 2nd in Central, 5th in West

Friday, January 26, 2007

Post-game vs Phoenix - Jan 26, 2007

Well that was depressing. If you're an Avalanche fan that is. If you're a Phoenix fan (I know you're out there!) then I bet it was a fun game. Nothing like fighting back from a two-goal deficit in the third and ending up with the SO win. Yep, the Avs started the 3rd with a 4-2 lead and ended up on the wrong side of a 5-4 SO loss. And after scoring 2 short-handed goals no less!

The game started off great. Our very own J-Leo got his first goal as an Avalanche to give them the early 1-0 lead. It held up until the last minute of the first when Reinprecht potted one past Budaj. The Avs then went up 3-1 very early in the second and ended that period with a 4-2 lead. It was downhill from there. They managed a meager 6 shots in the third and the Coyotes fired off 10, 2 of which came off Yanic Perraults stick and ended up behind Budaj.

Budaj did not have his best night tonight. He really turned it on towards the end of the third to ensure the game went to OT but I'm certainly not giving him the credit for getting them there. The third and fourth goal I would say he didn't have much chance on. The third one was a missed clear by Clark and high slot bullet from Perrault. The fourth appeared to be tipped in. The first was Budaj misplaying the puck and the second one he just couldn't get a handle on. Nothing to proclaim him as terrible, but nothing to proclaim him as the next Roy either.

Antti Laaksonen score one of the Avalanche's two SH goals and got an assist on the next goal to come away with a +2 rating on the night. The All-Star break may have rejuvenated Laaksonen a bit as seemed to have some wheels tonight. However, one game does not a pattern make so it'll take a while before I stop singing the "Where's Laakso?" tune. He's been noticeably absent this year after having such a strong season in 05/06.

Ben Guite made his presence felt tonight. Literally. He ended up with 4 hits on the night to go along with his 15 minutes of ice-time and managed to block 4 shots. So once again, a very solid game from Guite who has really established himself as a mainstay on the team if you ask me. Unfortunately nobody has asked me so he could very well end up back in Albany tomorrow.

Ossi Vaananen had a terrible game by most counts and was reflected in his ice-time. He walked away with 15 minutes which was by far the least of any d-man on the team. He also managed to take 2 of the Avs 3 2nd period penalties. He really seemed to be turning it on in the last few games but I guess the time off really had a toll on the steam he'd built up. Let's hope he can turn it around again and use his 6'4" frame to toss some bodies around. Zero hits is unacceptable for a d-man of his size.

Joe Sakic continued to lead by example. He potted one goal and really put a step in his game during the end of the third to help the team get to OT. Even during the All-Star game it was noted how he was always the first man on the backcheck. I think the young guns of the team are in good hands watching how Sakic plays and learning from him. Hopefully they don't learn anything from the 3 turnovers he had in the first period.

The Good
- 2 shorties
- good PK (5-6)
- injury-free game for Leopold

The Bad
- three 2nd period penalties
- forgetting about the third period
- dismal response to losing lead

The Ugly
- giving up a 2-goal third period lead

Pre-game vs Phoenix - Jan 26, 2007

Holy smokes it's time for real hockey again! Not that I didn't enjoy the All-Star game but it doesn't have the same excitement as a game that actually matters. And to those berating the All-Star game - lighten up. It seems like the trendy thing to do now is call it a corporate schmooze-fest and claim it's how Bettman wants all NHL games to be - high-scoring with no defense. Come on.

The game tonight should be exciting though as the Avs re-start their quest to jump back into playoff contention against the Phoenix Coyotes who are nipping at their heels. Get it? Coyotes. Nipping. Anyways, with a win tonight, the Avalanche will move within one point of Minnesota for the last playoff spot in the West. Unfortunately the Wild play the Flames tonight so one of those teams will move farther up in the standings and possibly both.

I was going to bemoan how the NW teams seem to always go to OT when playing each other but a quick skim of the Standings page on TSN would make me a liar (or whiner, whichever you prefer). NW teams have gone to OT 17 times in total this season, divisional game or not. That ties with the Pacific for the least of any division. The SE is the winner with 31 of their teams games going to OT. If anyone feels like breaking that down by team and/or intra-divisional games, be my guest!

The biggest story of tonight is the return of Jordan Leopold...again. He has, hopefully, fully healed from his groin troubles and will start to inject more stability to the Avalanche blueline. It will take a couple games to hit his stride again I'm sure so I don't expect miracles from him tonight.

I do expect that he will soon help put Clark and Skrastins back to more reasonable minutes on the ice. They did a commendable job in the last few games but these guys aren't used to that kind of ice-time. Leopold expects to fill a defensive void moreso than the offensive void that JM Liles has left. I think everyone can agree on the soundess of that strategy.

Ben Guite has been recalled and I'm glad to see that. He played very solid for the team and might as well take the place of forwards who are really doing nothing for the team this year. With Guite in the lineup, the Avs PK has seemed to be better. It may not be enough to establish a pattern yet, but it should raise an eyebrow or two at least.

Even with Jose Theodore's new pads, I'd still expect Peter Budaj to get the nod in goal tonight. Unless he's too tired from the YoungStars game which saw him get hung out a little bit worse than what happens with the Avs. "Budaj makes the save. And the rebound. But the third one goes in" And that's just the Avalanche games!

Liles - foot, IR
Brisebois - back, day-to-day
May - shoulder, IR

Ricci - neck, IR

Stastny, Arnason, Hejduk, Sakic, and Brunette have 3 in 2.

Doan has 17 in 13, Nagy has 7 in 7, Laraque has 2 in 2.

Nolan has 0 in 3, Boynton has 0 in 5.

Svatos has 0 in 4, Wolski has 0 in 3.

Peter Budaj - 15-10-2, 2.53 GAA, .911 save pct
Mikael Tellqvist - 9-5-2,. 2.87 GAA, .905 save pct

Colorado - 24-20-3, 4th in NW, 9th in West
Phoenix - 22-24-2, 4th in Pacific, 11th in West

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Post-game vs Detroit - Jan 20, 2007

The drought is over! The Avalanche beat the Red Wings tonight by a final count of 3-1, ending a 7-game winless drought against the Wings. I'm not about to look it up, but that may well have been a club record in terms of a losing streak against one team. Andrew Brunette potted the eventual winner halfway through the third and Joe Sakic added the insurance goal as he swept a backhand into the empty net with under a minute to play.

The story of the night, at least for me, is Lappy finally breaking his drought. Halfway through the first period he opened the scoring for the Avs and I can only imagine the relief. No, his role isn't to score goals but after the season he had last year, it still had to be a huge weight off his shoulders.

Brett Clark had a huge game in terms of ice-time tonight. He was out there for 26:49 which was the 2nd of all skaters, save for the machine himself, Nicklas Lidstrom. That included 6:39 of PP time and 3:03 of PK time. He also managed to block 5 shots and got off 4 shots of his own. It looks like he's labelled himself as the Avs #1 d-man for the time being. He certainly gives it his all every shift and is really showing some leadership in stepping in and helping stabilize the defense.

On the other end of that spectrum, Kurt Sauer and Kyle Cumiskey had the lowest ice-time of all Avs defenders. I'm all for that coaching decision. If the top 4 can step up and handle extra minutes without making fatigued errors, then by all means use them. There's no sense having that tandem out on the ice more than is necessary.

Sauer got significant PK minutes tonight which is a good way to use your biggest defender. He may not be quick but he's a big presence in front of the net to help clear bodies. Since the Avs went 3-3 on the PK, it seems like a sound strategy.

Ben Guite was in the lineup again tonight as Rycroft and Turgeon were the forward scratches. He logged 12 minutes, fired off a couple shots, dished out a couple hits and came away with an abysmal 25% success rate in the faceoff circle. So far it can be considered an anomaly as he's better than average in the circle for the most part.

Speaking of faceoffs, it looks like coach Q is going to Paul Stastny for a majority of the draws. He took 19 of a possible 45 faceoffs which is, if you have a calculator handy to verify, nearly half the draws. That just shows the kind of well-rounded player Stastny is. He scores, he backchecks, he kills penalties and he wins faceoffs. Unfortunately, well-roundedness does not equate to a spot in the YoungStars game as we know. If you have someone who can break up plays, then it'll be a much lower scoring game which would be no fun for the fans!

The Good
- beating the Wings
- 100% PK

The Bad
- 0% PP

The Ugly
- Kronwall taking a skate to the nose

Pre-game vs Detroit - Jan 20, 2007

It's that time of the year again. Time to see if the Avs can manage to not lose to the bloody Detroit Red Wings. The Avs are 4-13 against the Wings in their last 17 regular season tilts dating back to the 01/02 season. That's a dismal record to have against a team that was your arch rival. And if that wasn't enough, the Wings just got shut out by the Jackets last night and will be looking for redemption.

According to the Rocky Mountain News, Leopold will not be making his return tonight which is fine by me. Not that I don't want to see him play but how ridiculous would it be for him to come back and get injured again b/c he wasn't fully healed. The training staff would look like amateurs. Sitting out this game gives him an extra week to rest up and be 100% when he makes his return against the Coyotes on Friday.

Patrice Brisebois will also be out of the lineup as he continues to have back problems. I'm not sure if he's even taken to the ice in practice recently. I recall reading somewhere that coach Q said he was not practicing. That can't be a terribly good sign if he's not even on the ice yet. Once he's ready to come back he'll still need a practice or two to get the legs going again which means it's possible he may not be back for at least 2 more weeks.

By all accounts, Peter Budaj should be getting the start tonight. He had been seeing a lot of rubber lately but there was a 2-day break after the Phoenix game which should be plenty of rest time. The last time Budaj faced Detroit was on Jan 9th where he got the team an undeserved point when he single handedly took the Wings to a shootout. I suppose some credit should be given to Hasek in that game as he looked a bit off, which he has looked for most of January actually.

Mathieu Schneider will be out of the lineup for the Wings as it was determined that he has a sprained MCL. He is one of their top defencemen and can often be found on the power play so it will have an effect on the team. The rest of the Wings are healthy though so unfortunately it's likely not a huge hit.

In a quick edit, Joey Macdonald will be getting the start for the Wings tonight. Osgood is out sick with the flu and Hasek played last night so in steps the backup to the backup. That can be nothing but good news for the Avs.

Tonight I will be in a corporate booth watching the Saskatoon Blades take on the Calgary Hitmen tonight so my post-game might not be up until tomorrow.

Leopold - groin, IR
Liles - foot, IR
Brisebois - back, day-to-day

Schneider - knee, day-to-day

Sakic has 6 in 4, Brunette has 5 in 4, Hejduk, Arnason, and Stastny have 3 in 2.

Datsyuk has 12 in 5, Zetterberg has 10 in 5, Holmstrom has 8 in 5.

Mclean has 0 in 6, Svatos has 0 in 3.

Maltby has 0 in 12, Lang, Draper, Samuelsson, and Williams have 0 in 3, Cleary has 0 in 4.

Peter Budaj - 14-10-2, 2.59 GAA, .909 save pct
Joey Macdonald - 0-2-1, 3.67 GAA, .857 save pct

Colorado - 23-20-3, 5th in NW, 10th in West
Detroit - 30-13-5, 2nd in Central, 4th in West

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Post-game vs Phoenix - Jan 17, 2007

I was stuck at work until now but rest assured I was listening to the game! I just got home, caught the highlights and I'm ready to write up a storm. The Avalanche came out ready to play today and it paid off with a 4-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes. It appeared to be a fairly complete game except for the whole "almost giving up the lead" thing they did towards the end of the third. If you have a 4-1 lead and there are 7 minutes left, you expect to comfortably win the game. 2 goals in a minute and a half made it a nail biter!

Tyler Arnason decided it was time to show himself again and he did a wonderful job. He came away from the game with 3 assists and all 3 were some pretty nice plays. The first was a great pass to Stastny who tipped it in. He then gave a gorgeous feed to Andrew Brunette who had a year and a day to bury it in the empty net. And just for good luck, he fed Stastny one more time for the eventual game winner. It's about time he popped his head up again. He came out flying at the start of the season, tailed back to acceptable and then became mediocre for a little while. Hopefully he doesn't remain this streaky but everyone is entitled to a slump.

Unless, of course, your name is Joe Sakic. He ended up with 2 assists tonight to keep right on trucking on the pace he started from the first game of the season. On his first, he connected with Hejduk after Brunette fed Sakic a pass on the break-in. Can you smell chemistry forming between Sakic and Hejduk? Or is it just that anyone playing with Sakic, ie Wolski, magically becomes a better player?

Ben Guite was recalled today and inserted in the lineup as both Mark Rycroft and Pierre Turgeon sat in the press box. He ended up with 14 minutes in ice-time, 4 1/2 of that on the PK, and won 61% of his faceoffs. I'm not sure if it gets much more solid than that. This is the second time that he's been inserted in the lineup and the PK has broken out of a slump. I asked last time if it was a coincidence. Now it's twice. I don't let it pass 3 times without calling it a reason.

Marek Svatos is in a huge slump right now. He got 8 minutes in ice-time tonight which is barely more than Brett Mclean got. Ouch. In the last 15 games, he has 5 points and only 1 goal. That's hardly what was expected of our prized 30-goal scoring rookie of last season. It appears that the management was right in only signing him to a 1 year, 1 mil deal. I'll leave it to other armchair coaches to figure out how to fix him but off the cuff, I'd say he needs to get stronger on the puck. Seems his shoulders may be troubling him.

Peter Budaj put in a solid game. Not spectacular, but solid. That first goal...well I'm not sure what happened there. After his last few performances though, I'll give him that one. He also got saved by the post a few times. And no, they weren't "but he only gave them the post to hit" post saves. They were "thank you post b/c my *** was beat" post saves. I counted 3 post hits in the highlights shown so Budaj better have given them mucho thanks when the game was done.

And since I deride the PK so much, I should give it kudos when it's working. The PK had a 100% success rate tonight which is a vast improvement from last game when they were under 50%. Since I couldn't see the game, I can only speculate on the reason but I'd say that practice on Tuesday concentrating on the PK helped. Maybe they should have done that sooner. It also sounds like at one point, our own Chuck Klee basically killed a penalty all by himself. I can only go by comments people make on that one but knowing Klee, he's got it in him. Nobody *bleeps* with Chuck.

The Good
- win!
- 100% PK
- 50% PP
- Arnason waking up

The Bad
- lots of penalties

The Ugly
- nearly coughing up a 4-1 late 3rd period lead

Pre-game vs Phoenix - Jan 17, 2007

The Colorado Avalanche begin a three-game homestand tonight as they welcome the surging Phoenix Coyotes to the Pepsi Center. The Avalanche are a modest 11-10-2 at home this year and they will be facing a rejuvenated Phoenix squad as they try to improve that number. The Coyotes have won 8 of their last 10 games including an impressive 6-game road winning streak.

Behind the resurgence of the Coyotes is the emergence of Mikael Tellqvist as the current #1 netminder and Yanic Perrault proving every other GM wrong about how valuable he could be. Since acquiring Perrault, he has become their 5th leading scorer and is the goals leader on the team with 15 in 33 games played including 4 game-winning goals. I had secretely hoped the Avs would pick up Perrault, for his face-off prowess if anything. He hasn't disappointed in that category either as he leads the league with a 62% success rate.

But enough about the Coyotes! On the Avalanche side, they've taken a long hard look at their penalty kill efforts as of late and are trying to remedy that. Most of Tuesday's practice was centered around the penalty kill and every player knows it's not good enough right now. The consenting opinion is that they are too passive and give up the zone far too easily. That's about as obvious as it gets if you ask me but I don't think anybody did. I didn't get a call from Joel Quenneville lately anyways.

They also need to keep weathering the assault that their blueline is taking at the moment. The Avs are dressing Kurt Sauer, who is a virtual rookie, and Kyle Cumiskey, a full-blown rookie, and have them playing on the same line. As much as people can say not to point fingers at the D alone, it's fairly obvious that without Brisebois and Liles, they are hurting. Although Brisebois and Liles aren't known for defensive prowess, what they are known for is being puck-moving D who can lead breakouts farther than the Avs own blueline. Watching the Avalanche trapped in their own end for half of each game lately is just painful and does nothing for my blood pressure. Thankfully I don't have high blood pressure in general, only when I watch the games live.

Thankfully, help on the blueline may be on the way by the time the All-Star break is done. Early reports suggest that Jordan Leopold could be ready to go for the Avs first game after the break, which is against Phoenix. I'm hoping that Brisebois will be back by that time as well. That would only leave Liles on the fence and he would likely be back two weeks following that which would give the Avalanche a healthy blueline for the stretch run.

The Avalanche would be in a full-fledged slump right now were it not for the emergence of Peter Budaj as the goaltending hero we've all been dying for since Roy left. No, I'm not saying he's as good as Roy. Far from it. But in the short term, we need a goalie who can steal some points and he has done just that. The Anaheim game should have been nowhere near a shootout yet he held the team in. The Sharks game was a close one if not for the 3 powerplay goals given up, 3 of which I'd say Budaj had no real chance on. Let's hope he continues his ways tonight as, although Phoenix is streaking, I see no reason that the Avalanche can't walk away with 2 points tonight.

Leopold - groin, IR
Liles - foot, IR
Brisebois - back, day-to-day

Mike Ricci - neck, IR

Sakic has 4 in 3, Stastny has 13 in 12, Brunette has 13 in 12, Wolski has 11 in 11.

Mclean has 0 in 5, Arnason and Turgeon have 0 in 3.

Sjostrom and Adams have 0 in 4, Saprykin and Scatchard have 0 in 3

Peter Budaj - 13-10-2, 2.58 GAA, .909 save pct
Curtis Joseph - 11-15-0, 3.15 GAA, .893 save pct

Colorado - 22-20-3, 5th in NW, 10th in West
Phoenix - 21-22-4, 4th in Pacific, 11th in West

Monday, January 15, 2007

Post-game vs San Jose - Jan 15, 2007

Well, they gave a fight towards the end of the game but couldn't reocver from an early 2-0 deficit. 2 powerplay goals given up 2 1/2 minutes apart was back breaker in this one. If they hadn't given those up, and I hate playing this game but..., I absolutely believe Colorado could have walked away with at least a point.

Budaj played amazing again and looks extremely confident out there. He made some amazing cross-crease saves and had a huge pad stack save in the first. I love pad stack saves because to do a pad stack, it typically means your confidence is through the roof. Martin Brodeur is the king of the pad stack and guess who the #1 goalie in the game is! Unfortunately, when you're confronted with the #1 powerplay in the league, there's not much even a pad stack can do with that many Sharks crashing the net.

Which leads one to wonder exactly what Pierre Turgeon was thinking when he reached around and grabbed hold of that Sharks player to give the Sharks their 5th poweplay and 3rd PP goal. He actually had the audacity to argue with the referee about it. I mean, if you lay your hand on another player, grab his sweater, and tug...you're going to get a penalty. I don't know if he just got the memo about the "new NHL" but it's high-time he takes a good read through it. No, Turgeon himself didn't cost the game, but he made sure to do his part.

Milan Hejduk was flying out there tonight and man are his moves looking good. He made some amazing dangles and is able to pull off some good moves when in full stride. That's the Milan we knew and loved and it's great to see him back. He played his way back onto the top line with Sakic and Wolski. That of course meant Svatos was moved to the second line but not for his lack of trying. He has his wheels going but just doesn't seem to be overly confident right now with the puck.

I continue to be completely unimpressed with Kurt Sauer. It may be that he's trying to hard to make up for Cumiskey's inexperience but from what I've seen, Cumiskey is playing better than Sauer. Cumiskey did get his pocket picked on the 2nd Sharks goal but he was actually tossing the body around a bit and appears to be making better choices on pinching. Somebody on the coaching team definitely told him to think before pinching as a couple times you caught him starting then stopping and staying back on D.

However, as bad as I feel Sauer is playing, the coaching staff seems to feel he is either a better player than Vaananen or a better fit with Cumiskey. Vaananen saw the ice for 15 minutes which was the least ice-time of all D-men. I didn't catch much of Vaananen's play tonight but he was more of a "meh" player to me. He made a couple good hits but also had a couple cough-ups as he tried to carry the puck into the offensive zone.

So the Avalanche's defensive woes continue to cause them some grief. If the team hadn't found a goaltender to pull off some amazing saves, they would be much worse off than they are right now. As it stands, they're 4 points out of a playoff position so don't discount them yet. Brisebois may be back soon and rumblings of Leopold's return have started to surface. If this D can get healthy and have Budaj continue it's stellar play, they can easily climb back into contention.

The Good
- good fight towards the last half of the game
- not getting shutout
- Budaj's headstands

The Bad
- nearly getting shutout
- giving up early 2-goal lead
- giving up 3 PP goals

The Ugly
- Turgeon's game sealing penalty

Pre-game vs San Jose - Jan 15, 2007

It's time for the Avalanche and Sharks to clash for the third time this season. They've split the last two with the visiting team coming up with the win both times. The Colorado Avalanche are that visiting team tonight so let's hope the tradition holds true. The Avs are coming off of a 3-2 SO win over Anaheim while the Sharks have won their last two games against Phoenix and L.A.

If it wasn't for some heroics from Peter Budaj against Anaheim, the Avs might well have walked away with 0 points. They were outshot 40 to 17 and were likely outchanced by a 4-to-1 margin. Budaj looked calm, cool, and collected as he made some great saves on many 2-on-1 opportunities. Although he has started 8 straight games, I'd look for him to continue that streak tonight.

I'm not sure who is getting the start for San Jose. They were on rotation with Nabokov and Toskala where each would get 2 starts in a row if I remember correctly. However their last 4 games have gone: Nabokov, Toskala, Nabokov, Toskala. So they might be down to a 1 game rotation which would see Nabokov in net tonight. That could be beneficial as Nabokov is in a bit of a slump whereas Toskala is on fire. That being said, the last time these teams played, Toskala was o fire and the Avs lit him up for 5 goals.

This is the first game played after the announcement of the All-Star and YoungStart rosters. Joe Sakic ended up being the only Avalanche player in the All-Star game however Peter Budaj and Wojtek Wolski were able to find a spot in the Young-Stars game. Many people felt that Paul Stastny should have gone as well and I'd be inclined to agree but the roster is what it is. the odds are he'll make it next year if he keeps improving his play. I think he's really just not flashy enough to catch people's eyes. Having his father's name attached to him might not be a good thing either as it almost overshadows his solid play.

The game tonight is on Versus which, if it's not blacked out, I will be watching at my boss' place. So the length of my post-game will likely make up for the brevity of my pre-game. The post-game is where all fun happens anyways!

Leopold - groin, IR
Liles - foot, IR
Brisebois - back, day-to-day

Parker - leg, IR
Vlasic - upper body, day-to-day

Sakic and Brunette have 3 in 2, Stastny has 12 in 11, Wolski has 11 in 10, Hejduk has 5 in 6.

Thornton has 13 in 6, Marleau has 11 in 6, Clowe has 4 in 2, Cheechoo has 9 in 6.

Laperriere has 0 in 15, Svatos has 1 in 5, Mclean has 0 in 4.

Smith has 0 in 6, Grier and Brown have 0 in 4.

Peter Budaj - 13-9-2, 2.56 GAA, .908 save pct
Evgeni Nabokov - 11-9-0. 2.40 GAA, .913 save pct

Colorado - 22-19-3, 4th in NW, 9th in West
San Jose - 30-15-0, 2nd in Pacific, 5th in West

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Post-game vs Anaheim - Jan 13, 2007

It was a repeat of the last time these 2 met as the Avalanche pulled out another SO win against the Ducks, putting them away by a final score of 3-2. This game saw 2 different goaltenders from last game and one of those goaltenders absolutely stole the show. Thankfully it was the Avalanche goaltender Peter Budaj who bailed his team out of another poor defensive performance. He ended the night with 38 saves, 15 alone in the 3rd, and was 2-for-3 in the shootout.

Anytime a goaltender ends the night with 40 shots against and comes away with a win, you are officially able to declare that they stole the game. I was able to tune in to half the game on the live Yahoo stream and, as I squinted at the tiny window, it became obvious that the Avs were getting outplayed and Budaj was bailing them out. In particular, his spread eagle save towards the end of the third was huge and had me believing that the Avs would at least steal a point from this game.

In overtime, Wolski had a great chance to end the game as he was sprung on a break. He was able to get Bryzgalov to commit but then put the puck wide to everyone's dismay. And by everyone, I am referring to the people in the arena. There seemed to be a lot of Avalanche fans in Anaheim tonight. But, even though he missed his opportunity there, he gets credit for putting up the go-ahead goal in the second off a rebound created by Joe Sakic. I had just got home and turned on the game about a minute before that happened. Coincidence? I think not.

Tonight was Brad Richardson's return after 3 games in the AHL and he ended up with 13 minutes, 2 penalties and one shot on goal. Not exactly a stellar performance but he's still maturing. He was given some ice-time in OT and was putting on a good forechecking performance which is what he's expected to do.

Anti Laaksonen was also back in the lineup tonight and promptly ended the night with a -2 rating as did Rycroft and Arnason. When you're on the ice for all the opposition goals, the coach can't really be blamed in limiting your ice-time. To his credit, Arnason was flying out there tonight and he got off 4 shots. But shots don't offset goals against so it was officially a bad night for him.

Kyle Cumiskey gets the 2nd point of his career tonight as he played alongside Kurt Sauer again. Although I'm liking Cumiskey's play, he and Sauer are not gelling terribly well. They're both fairly inexperienced (yes, Sauer is inexperienced no matter how long he's been around) which is just a bad combination. You can see they aren't communicating very well with each other as they try to decide who is taking the front of the net and who is taking the puck in the corner. Their inexperience just happened to lead to the tying goal. Sauer was forechecked, gave up the puck, then Cumiskey left his man out front to chase the puck carrier as Sauer tried to circle around to the fron. End result was a wide open Duck for the easy goal. I really think they need to mix that pair up with the Vaananen-Klee pairing.

The defensive pairing of Skrastins and Clark got the bulk of the play tonight as they each put up around 27 minutes. They both made some very good defensive plays towards the end of the third including a diving block by Clark (I believe) to prevent what could very well have ended up as a goal. It's great to see these two guys step up and get elite level ice-time. By no means am I declaring those two as elite D-men but they certainly are showing the ability to step up for the Avalanche who are sorely in need of some leadership on the backend right now.

Andrew Brunette scored a beautiful goal to open the scoring and was also on the ice for the Avs 2nd goal. For some strange reason though, he barely saw the ice in the 2nd period. Judging by the shift chart, he got maybe 2 minutes of ice time spread over 4 short shifts. I'm not sure if he was nursing an injury or if Q purposely cut his ice-time. I'm not sure why he would do that since Bruno is not the guy who seems to take off any shifts. He was back on regular shifts by third period so whatever it was got taken care of.

The penalty kill looked very solid tonight which was a pleasent change. They were being more aggressive and seemed to realize that they have to watch more than just the puck carrier. They ended up killing all 4 penalty kill opportunites by the Ducks, who are the 3rd best team in the league on the power play. A big key to shutting down that powerplay is shutting down Selanne, who leads the league in power play goals. Another key is having Lapperiere and Skrastins being shot blocking machines out there. Skrastins had 6 blocked shots and Laperriere had 1 officially but I would debate that. I counted at least 3 in the time I was watching.

The power play on the other hand appeared a bit weak. Granted, they only had two chances and I only watched one, but the one I saw was a very weak attempt. They managed one shot and were hardly able to even get set up in the offensive zone. The problem is they have trouble carrying the puck in and maintaining possession. And the reason they carry the puck in rather than dump it in is they don't have the grit to battle in the corners to get control of the puck. But hey, at least they didn't give up any shorthanded goals.

The Good
- beating the #1 team in the NHL
- 100% PK
- Budaj stealing the game

The Bad
- needing Budaj to steal the game
- weak PP
- poor defensive coverage

The Ugly
- 40 shots against

Pre-game vs Anaheim - Jan 13, 2007

What happened on Thursday? I have this blank spot in my memory and every time I try to recall it, my head starts hurting. I'll just assume it was something horrible and stop trying to remember it at all. For today is gameday! And the Colorado Avalanche have rolled into Anaheim to take on the Ducks. Even though Anaheim isn't on the greatest of streaks lately, they are still the top team in the NHL and the Avalanche will have their hands full tonight.

To answer what appears to be Avs fans most pressing question these days, Peter Budaj will get the start tonight. His last outing was a complete desertion of him by the team. So Q does what most people asked of him for the entire first half of the season...give a goalie a chance to rebound from a tough game. I'm sure this is tough on Theodore but at some point this season, he will get another start. At that point, it will be up to him to prove that he still has it.

Ilya Bryzgalov will be starting for Anaheim tonight as Giguere is still out with a strained groin. I'm sure we all remember the 6'3 Russian wall from the 2nd round of the playoffs last year. Hopefully the Avs will see the back of the net a little better than they did in their first 3 games of that series. And hey, maybe Bryzgalov will decide not to play very hard tonight. He might have some philosophical issue on his mind and we know he doesn't like a "game" to get in the way of those.

The most pressing question that I have waiting to be answered tonight is how the entire team responds after their worst game of the season. Defensive coverage was non-existant, battles were given up on, hits were shied away from, and the team lacked a level of grit that is sorely needed. It's time to see who can step up and add that needed grit to bring this team back into a playoff position.

Brad Richardson will be back in the lineup tonight after a 3-game stint in the minors. If he responds anything like Wolski did after being benched, he should put on a good performance tonight. The biggest problem with Richardson is that he seems to be capable of playing on the 2nd line or 3rd, but there just isn't a full-time spot for him there yet. However, he is capable of helping the team, even in a 4th line role. The big question is whether it's helping his development by being in that role.

Leopold - groin, IR
Liles - foot, IR
Brisebois - back, day-to-day

Pronger - foot, IR
Giguere - groin, day-to-day
Beauchemin - spleen, IR

Sakic has 18 in 15, Brunette has 17 in 14, Wolski has 10 in 9, Hejduk has 5 in 5.

Niedermayer has 10 in 6, McDonald has 5 in 2, Selanne has 4 in 2, Kunitz has 3 in 3.

Laperriere has 0 in 14, Turgeon has 0 in 8, Svatos has 1 in 4.

Thornton has 0 in 3.

Peter Budaj - 12-9-2, 2.59 GAA, .905 save pct
Ilya Bryzgalov - 5-3-2, 2.46 GAA, .905 save pct

Colorado - 21-19-3, 5th in NW, 10th in West
Anaheim - 30-9-7, 1st in Pacific, 1st in West

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Post-game vs Calgary - Jan 11, 2007

Well that really sucked. And that's putting it very mildly. I don't know who the Avalanche thought they were playing tonight but I've got a quick news flash...it was the Calgary Flames. No, not the Ridge Meadow Flames, although even they would have given the Avs a run for the money tonight. The amount of 2-on-1 chances was shocking and the fact that they gave up 2 shorthanded goals is mind numbing.

So let's break down the Flames goals:

1 - Flames play along the boards for a while until they can feed Hamrlik in the high slot. Hamrlik then orders a latte, waits, drinks it, then decides he better fire it in since all the Avs defenders are getting impatient as they wait in line at the coffee shop.

2 - The Avs break in 5 wide on the powerplay and shockingly give up a breakaway chance. As Wolski, Sakic and Svatos try and catch up - and all fans do a double-take to ensure that really is the last 3 players back - Huselius makes a nice move and gets a lucky bounce off his skate.

3 - David Moss takes a stroll down the center of the ice and waits for Tanguay, who was behind the net chatting on his cell phone, to notice, make the pass to him, and bury it.

4 - Daymond Langkow thinks to himself "When was the last time we got 2 shorties in a game? Must have been a while ago." He promptly decides to change the Flames bad luck on shorthanded goals and the Avs figure "Well, they have had a bad run so why not".

5 - Langkow decides that he isn't going to settle for one goal. He promptly flies down the wing, drills it off Budaj's face and then pots his own rebound as Budaj tries to figure out if his head is still attached to his body.

6 - Ossi Vaananen decides that the best way to defend Amonte is to get as close as possible to him while still not taking the puck away. Then for good measure, he figures he better screen Theodore and give the puck a bit of a deflection. Who can blame him? Isn't that what defensemen are for?

7 - Marcus Nilson decides that Kris Huselius deserves more. So he swoops in, steals the puck and feeds a wide open Huselius while our D stand behind the net wondering who's man it was.

Just so I don't look like I'm completely negative, the Avalanche did manage to get 3 powerplay goals. Of course, the powerplay gave up 2 goals so it pretty much evens out. Whoops, there goes that pessimism again!

Also to their credit, they did come out in the third and make a period out of it. Well, the first half of it. They had some sustained pressure at the start of the third but unfortunately had lost their confidence and were holding onto the puck too long before shooting. You can't let Kiprusoff get set or he'll stop it. All three goals were in tight off of rebounds. I hope they at least carry that forward to the next game. Grinder goals are where it's at in my books.

To be honest, I could go on for a while analyzing where the shortcomings were but I'm not in the mood to write it and I'm sure most of you aren't in the mood to read it. So I'll save us all the pain and implore all fans to do two things: 1) breathe deeply and 2) remember it's just a hockey game.

The Good
- 3 powerplay goals

The Bad
- 2 shorthanded goals
- being humiliated in your own building
- throwing about half a dozen hits in the game
- getting hit 20+ times in the game
- giving the puck away nearly 20 times

The Ugly
- Budaj taking one right on the chin

Pre-game vs Calgary - Jan 11, 2007

Alex Tanguay is set to make his return to the Pepsi Center tonight as the Colorado Avalanche battle the Calgary Flames in the second of eight matches between the teams this season. The first game at the Pengrowth Saddledome did not end well with the Flames coming away with a 5-2 win. The Flames haven't had much success lately when in Avalanche country though, going 1-3 in their last 4 matches at the Pepsi Center.

With a win tonight, the Avalanche will leapfrog over Edmonton for the 8th and final playoff spot in the West. Edmonton claimed that spot last night with a win over the Sharks as the see-saw battle in the NW continues. If Calgary were to win, they would jump back into top spot in the division. So far, every team in the NW has been atop the division at one point or another and nobody has started pulling away yet, even with Vancouver's latest winning streak.

Peter Budaj gets the call in net for the seventh straight game. He put in a huge performance against Detroit which many feel has cemented his spot as the #1 goaltender in Colorado. As prone to goaltender worship as I can be, it's still going to take more than a quarter season to have me on the "Budaj=savior" bandwagon. But as long as he keeps cranking out wins, I'm certainly rooting him on.

On the opposite end of the rink will be last years Vezina winner and 2nd best goalie in the NHL (imho), Miikka Kiprusoff. Kiprusoff recorded his 100th victory on Tuesday as they downed the Wild 3-0. That gives him 5 shutouts on the season which still has him 2 shy of the league lead which is held by the #1 goalie in the league (imho), Martin Brodeur. How that man didn't get voted in as the starter for the east, I'll never know.

The Flames will again be without their captain Jarome Iginla who is on the shelf with a knee injury. Unfortunately for opponents, that hasn't panned out the way most had hoped. With Iginla out of the lineup, the Flames are 3-0 while getting scoring contributions from an unlikely source in Byron Ritchie who has 4 goals in his last 3 games.

In the Avalanche end, it's an unlikely source who isn't scoring. Marek Svatos hasn't lit the lamp in his last 12 games and only has 4 points in that same span. That's a far cry from the 30+ goal scorer we saw last year. Thankfully, Milan Hejduk seems to have woken from a long slumber with 3 goals and 4 points, including his 500th career point, in his last 4 games. Could the Duke of old be back?

Jordan Leopold - groin, IR
Liles - foot, IR
Patrice Brisebois - back, day-to-day
Brett Mclean - back, day-to-day

Iginla - knee, day-to-day
Kobasew - concussion, day-to-day
McCarty - hip, IR
Zyuzin - groin, day-to-day

Brunette has 15pts in the last 13, Hejduk has 4 in 4, Clark has 3 in 4.

Tanguay has 5 in 3, Langkow has 15 in 12, Ritchie has 3 in 2.

Laperriere has 0 in 13, Turgeon has 0 in 7, Svatos has 0 in 3.

Lundmark has 0 in 26

Peter Budaj - 12-8-2, 2.42 GAA, .911 save pct
Miikka Kiprusoff - 20-14-3, 2.30 GAA, .921 save pct

Colorado - 21-18-3, 4th in NW, 9th in West
Calgary - 22-15-4, 2nd in NW, 7th in West

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Post-game vs Detroit - Jan 9, 2007

When you speak of a nail biting game, this one should immediately come to mind. However, it wasn't really nail biting in a good way. It was nail biting accompanied by hair pulling and foot stomping. The Colorado Avalanche got completely dominated tonight by the Red Wings but, thanks to Peter Budaj, were at least able to come away with 1 point out of the debacle. Judging by the score you'd think the game was close but the Red Wings near outshot the Avs 2-to-1 and most definitely out-chanced them. If not for some heroics from Peter Budaj, it could easily have been a blowout.

It would be easy to pin this one on the depleted defense but that's certainly not the entire story. What was it that gave away this game? Everybody say it...Penalty Kill! Yes, the Avs gave up 2 goals on 6 chances and that was the difference again tonight. The weak side is so wide open and the quick puck moving of the Red Wings powerplay was easily able to exploit it on both of their PP goals. Budaj isn't the quickest on side-to-side movement yet but it's hard to fault him on cross-ice passes with a screen in front. The PK unit needs to keep their head on a swivel. The players who aren't attacking the puck need to keep an eye on what's happening away from the puck.

That being said, you can certainly make a case that the depleted, and young, D was taken advantage of tonight. When you give up 43 shots, 39 in regulation time, you're certainly doing something wrong. The one thing they did was right was blocking shots. The Avs ended up with 16 blocked shots which I guess means that the Wings actually got off 59 shots, 43 of which made it to Budaj. And since Budaj was a wall tonight, the Avs won't be welcoming the Flames on Thursday with a horrible loss on their shoulders.

Fairly big minutes were given to Sauer, Cumiskey, and Vaananen tonight. Sauer showed his appreciation by taking two penalties, including the one that gave the Wings the opening lead. I'm not sure why there are people who are so adamant that Sauer deserves more ice-time. He showed what he does with those minutes tonight and ended up with the least ice-time of all Avalanche defenders. Yep, less than Kyle Cumiskey, the AHL call-up playing in his 4th NHL game.

Even with extra minutes for those three, Clark, Klee, and Skrastins still got a boost in ice-time with 26, 25 and 23 minutes respectively. Clark played a great game and Skrastins came away with 6 blocked shots, which I'm sure Budaj will be thanking him for. Klee dished out 3 "official" hits and hopefully those stats include when he absolutely levelled Dan Cleary in the Avs zone. That's how you deal with invaders in your zone! You obliterate them!

Now, although I continually point out how bad the penalty killing is, Ben Guite did manage to score his first ever NHL goal while the team was shorthanded. Right off the faceoff he batted a puck out of mid-air and past the Wings defensemen. He proceeded to barrel in on Hasek and bury it 5-hole. He was also very solid in the faceoff circle as he won 8 and lost 5 for an excellent 61% winning percentage. Yes, 61% in the faceoff circle ranks as excellent.

Lappy was nice enough to grab the puck for Guite after he scored so he can frame it for all posterity. How can anyone not love Lappy? He's always looking out for his teammates and does a lot for the community as well. It's unfortunate that tonight saw his cold streak continue with no points. However, he also dished out 3 hits, registered 3 takeaways, blocked 2 shots, and put in some big minutes on the PK. Although he's not scoring, he's still getting things done when he's on the ice.

So Wojtek Wolski was sitting alone having dinner one night and someone came up to him and whispered into his ear "You're 6'3" and weigh 200 lbs." After finding out that exciting fact, he decided it was time start throwing that big frame around a little bit. He registered 4 hits on the night and his goal was a goal that he got through determination, speed, a never give up attitude, and a little bit of force. He plowed through 4 Red Wings, nearly gave up the puck, but fought back for it and fired a wrist shot past a surprised Hasek who could only assume that his D had saved him once again. Not tonight Dominik. Not against Wolski. That would probably have a better ring if the Avs had won tonight but...

The Good
- Budaj putting in an A+ performance
- Wolski getting physical and being rewarded
- Guite getting his first

The Bad
- PK again...and again...and again
- giving up 43 shots
- getting dominated in OT

The Ugly
- Kris Draper*

The Crazy
- Lidstrom putting in 34 minutes of ice-time

* would have went with Chelios but he's had a bad run lately - luckily there are many to choose from on the Wings

Pre-game vs Detroit - Jan 9, 2007

It's time to for the Colorado Avalanche to face their bitter rivals the Detroit Red Wings. Well, they actually might not be considered bitter rivals anymore. Does anyone else still feel the heat when these two teams match up? It feels like most other games to me nowadays but maybe others feel differently. Either way, the red hot Avalanche are hosting the ice cold Red Wings. The Avalanche are winners of their last three while the Red Wings are losers of their last 3. Which one will have the streak snapped tonight?

Tonight will be the first night that the Avs are without their 4th leading scorer, John-Michael Liles. He suffered a broken foot against Minnesota and has been placed on the IR with the expectation of being out for 4 weeks. How will this affect the Avalanche's mediocre powerplay and what will it do to an already depleted defensive end? It depends on whether Patrice Brisebois is back in the lineup tonight or not. If he is in the lineup, then the situation isn't terrible by any means. If he's out, it should be interesting to see how things go.

Peter Budaj is the likely starter in goal tonight for the Avalanche while the Wings are probably going to start Hasek. I wouldn't be surprised to see Chris Osgood suit up though. Neither goalie has excelled over the last 3 games for the Wings and Hasek has been the worst of the two. Of course I didn't watch those games so can't comment on his performance which included giving up 5 PP goals. Osgood played reasonably well in a loss to LA 2 nights later and then Hasek put in an adequate performance against the Ducks. Could it be time for the Wings to rotate starting goalies for a while to ensure Hasek is healthy for the stretch run?

I haven't seen anything about Brisebois being back tonight so for now, I will assume he is out. This would mean that we have the following offensive defensemen: Clark and Cumiskey. Now, as heralded as defensive defencemen are, we do still need some offensively minded players on the backend to run the powerplay and get those breakouts going. And given that this is Cumiskey's 4th game, I would be surprised to see him get significant time on the powerplay. Q will certainly get him out there a bit to feel him out but I'd see Clark and Sakic being the main duo with some double-shifting happening with one or both on the powerplay.

As for line combinations on D, the safe bet is to essentially follow what was used before but replace Liles with Klee. So you'd see Clark-Skrastins, Klee-Vaananen, Sauer-Cumiskey. The Klee-Vaananen pairing might give people more concern than Sauer-Cumiskey since the latter two have played fairly well together. If Brisebois were to be back in, the lines would be a bit more balanced though I think the middle pairing would still be the most questionable one in terms of play.

Minnesota and Calgary play each other tonight so the Avs chance at jumping over someone in the standings takes a bit of a hit. Assuming the Avs win, they need Calgary to finish Minnesota in regulation time to jump over the Wild. They have no chance at leapfrogging Calgary. With an Avs win and Flames regulation time loss, they would tie Calgary with 46 points and Calgary has fewer games played thereby winning the tiebreaker. So with a sad heart I must say...Go Flames!

Leopold - groin, IR
Liles - foot, IR
Brisebois - back, day-to-day
Mclean - back, day-to-day

Schneider - knee, day-to-day
Chelios - lower body & personal, day-to-day
Kopecky, collarbone, IR

Sakic has 19 in 14, Brunette has 15 in 12, Hejduk has 3 in 3, Stastny has 3 in 2.

Zetterberg has 10 in 10, Williams has 5 in 5, Kronwall has 3 in 3, Holmstrom has 6 in 6.

Laperriere has 0 in 12, Turgeon has 0 in 6, Laaksonen has 0 in 7.

Maltby has 0 in 6, Cleary has 0 in 5, Lang has 1 in 4, Lidstrom has 1 in 4.

Peter Budaj - 12-8-1, 2.41 GAA, .910 save pct
Dominik Hasek - 21-7-3, 2.04 GAA, .912 save pct

Colorado - 21-18-2, 4th in NW, 9th in West
Detroit - 25-12-5, 2nd in Central, 5th in West

Monday, January 8, 2007

Liles Out for 4 Weeks

The reason for JM Liles getting minimal playing time in the third and OT against Minnesota has become public. On the blocked shot I mentioned in my post-game, he actually broke his left foot. So he has been placed on the IR and will be out approximately 4 weeks. This is a fairly big blow to the Avs defense as they already have Leopold on the IR and Brisebois out with a back injury.

So this leaves the Avs with the following defensemen:

It's not exactly a stellar cast though of each of those players have been doing their part as of late. The question now is two-fold. Will the Avs call someone up from the AHL such as Johnny Boychuk or Jeff Finger, or will they jump right into the trade market? If I were to put money on it, I'd say that out of those two, I'd prefer they call up another AHL player and sit tight until their D is healthy again.

Brisebois should be back soon as he was always listed as day-to-day, Leopold may come back soon as stated by Giguere briefly in an interview, and Liles will be back in a month leaving plenty of time for the stretch run. Of course, the Northwest is a division that would be hard to recover from if you drop much in the standings at this point so this may put Giguere into a bit of panic mode to ensure that doesn't happen.

There is also the possibility that they do nothing, which I guess makes the question three-fold but who's counting. They still have 6 d-men on the roster and have only been rolling with 7 since it was working for them. Now, they might just tone it back to 6 and get more forwards back into the lineup and see how it works out for a couple games before making any decision. That's a fine course of action by me as there's little point jumping the gun right away on a trade or call-up.

If we've seen anything from Giguere so far, it's that he appears to be a fairly patient man.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Post-game vs Minnesota - Jan 6, 2007

The Avs and Minnesota continue their extra time ways as this game was decided via shootout giving Colorado the 2-1 win and a valuable 2 points in the division. My eager eyes now turn to CBC as I cheer for Dallas *shudders* as they take on the Flames. The Avs unfortunately stay planted in 4th in the division. If they had won in regulation, they would have tied with the Wild and taken 3rd place via tie breaking rules. But that's neither here nor there as it is what it is and the Avs are now headed into a tough schedule that pits them against Detroit 3 times as well as Calgary, Anaheim, San Jose and Nashville.

Tonight was our first night to check out fresh AHL recruit Ben Guite and he played a solid game. It seems that coach Q already has confidence in him as he put him on the ice to take a key face-off at the end of the first and he was part of the PK unit killing off the untimely Svatos penalty towards the end of the third. He ended up with 11:26 in ice-time and 3:39 of that was on the penalty kill. Was it coincidental that Guite was in the lineup on the same night that the PK unit turned aside all 6 powerplay attempts?

And in the story of another AHL recruit, Kyle Cumiskey potted his first NHL goal tonight. It was a classic pinch as he took a feed from Brunette behind the goal line and buried it up high on Fernandez. He ended up with 13:40 in ice-time and had a +1 rating. He nearly played as much as Liles did. Looking at the shift chart, Liles hardly played in the third period. I can't remember when he took the puck to the foot but I think it was in the first so I'm not sure why Liles ended up getting virtually benched in the third. I guess Q didn't like what he was seeing from Liles. Or, to be extremely paranoid, the team got concerned after he took the shot to the foot as they're currently shopping him around to clear room for Leopold to come back and Cumiskey to stay on the roster. But that's extremely paranoid as I said.

The Avs went with 7 d-men tonight again but as mentioned, made a slight change to the lineup by inserting Guite and Laaksonen and taking out Mclean and Turgeon. I can see why Turgeon was sat down for a game. He was on a cold streak and looked a bit out of place. As for Mclean, either his back is hurting again or Q is rotating Mclean and Guite for a little while. Tough to tell but the next game should give more indication of what the current roster situation is. If Brisebois comes back soon, it will make the situation even more interesting but the likely bet is that Cumiskey and Guite will get sent down again once the roster is healthy.

As expected by most, Peter Budaj got the call tonight and put in a first start performance against an explosive Wild team (I think I've used that "explosive Wild team" line enough). He made some key saves at the start and shut the doors after giving up a bit of a weak goal by Koivu. So with 9 starts in 12 games, it seems fairly safe right now to say that Budaj is the #1. Of course, a new #1 could be crowned next week for all we know but Budaj has put in some solid performances as of late and as I said, it's best not to change a winning lineup.

Paul Stastny, though held off the scoreboard, put in a solid performance. He was a force on the PK, spent a lot of time on the power play, logged a ton of ice-time in general and fired off 4 shots in the 3rd. He was absolutely robbed on one of those shots by Fernandez who continued to be a thorn in the Avs side. He's a good goalie but he really seems to pull out his best saves when playing the Avs.

On a bad note, Marek Svatos phoned in a pretty mediocre performance tonight. He did get 12 minutes of ice-time but didn't get any shots off in that time. He did manage to take a very untimely penalty towards the end of the third. Thankfully the Avs killed it off and Svatos didn't see the ice again. He certainly has hig his sophomore slump and better break out of it soon if his agent wants to secure him a long-term, multi-million dollar contract.

The Good
- Cumiskey's first NHL goal
- good pressure-filled PK

The Bad
- mediocre PP
- penalty parade in last half of 2nd

The Ugly
- Walz taking a puck to the face

Pre-game vs Minnesota - Jan 6, 2007

After a good win against Tampa last night, the Avs roll into a hostile building tonight as they visit the Wild for a big NW division matchup. With a 7-game winning streak, Vancouver has pulled away a bit in the division and it would behoove the Avs to keep the game to a minimum. Beehove is a weird word but it works in that sentence I think. Minnesota's home record is a league leading 17-4-1 so it's a tough task tonight but it looks like the Avs are up to it. But will they be up to the return of Marian Gaborik?

That's right, Gaborik could very well be back in the lineup tonight and that's bad news for the Northwest divisin as this guy is about as explosive as they get. Before going down to injury, he had started out the season strong with 7 points in 7 games, 2 of those points coming against the Avs in Minnesota's season opener. According to www.wild.com (how did they get that URL!), Gaborik will be a game-time decision but I'm going out on a limb and saying he will play tonight.

I'm also going to go out on a limb and say that Peter Budaj is going to get the start in goal tonight for the 9th time in the last 12 games. He put in solid showings against Nashville and Tampa so there's really no reason not to go with him. Although I do admit to feeling bad for Theodore when I see him come off the bench at the end of each game. However, as far as I can tell he's being a team player which is great to see and is what's needed when your playing a backup role.

Let's hope that the team can carry over a solid defensive performance into tonight's game. I went into some detail on the great play by the defense last night in my post-game and am looking for the exact same thing tonight. It's going to be necessary against a Wild team that has opened up the floodgates a bit in terms of offensive production thanks to the addition of Pavol Demitra and the solid play of Brian Rolston and Pierre-Marc Bouchard.

I'm also looking for the Brunette-Stastny-Hejduk line to continue their solid play, Paul Stastny in particular. He was the #1 star last night for good reason. He put up 3 points and contributed on defense as well. He showed some great hustle and might just be coming into his own. He played well the first half of the season but has certainly seemed to step it up so far in 2007.

It sounds like Brisebois will still be out tonight but I'm not sure if they'll be suiting up 7 d-men tonight or giving Guite a chance to play. Last night they had Klee playing the wing with Turgeon and Rycroft with a bit of D shifts sprinkled here and there. I'd prefer to see a d-man scratched tonight and have Guite in the lineup however, it's hard to against the theory of "don't mess with a winning combination". This roster has won 2 starts in a row, and looked very well in both, so why mess with it?

Patrice Brisebois - back, day-to-day
Leopold - groin, IR

Nummelin - upper body, day-to-day
Gaborik - groin, day-to-day (or is he!)

Sakic has 19 in 13 (TSN rolled him to 4 in 2 but I'll keep the streak going), Wolski has 8 in 6, Brunette has 9 in 7, Stastny has 4 in 2.

Bouchard has 8 in 4, Foster and Rolston have 6 in 4, Demitra has 3 in 2, Parrish has 6 in 3.

Lapperriere has 0 in 11, Turgeon has 0 in 6, Klee has 0 in 4.

Walz has 0 in 3, Dupuis has 0 in 5, Johnsson has 0 in 5.

Peter Budaj - 11-8-1, 2.49 GAA, .907 save pct
Manny Fernandez - 17-14-0, 2.77 GAA, .905 save pct

Colorado - 20-18-2, 4th in NW, 9th in West
Minnesota - 21-18-2, 3rd in NW, 8th in West

Post-game vs Tampa Bay - Jan 6, 2007

I planned on getting home last night, downloading the game, then watching it this morning as if I was watching it live. It would have worked if the radio station I was listening to hadn't decided to lead off with "And in NHL news, Colorado dumped Tampa Bay...". All year long they use the Avalanche as a footnote to end NHL updates, last night they decide to lead off with them. Go figure. Nonetheless, the Avs were able to get the win tonight over Tampa Bay. Interestingly enough, as big as the win vs Nashville was, I see this as a bit bigger. Tampa has been a struggling team all season and we know how the Avs play against struggling teams.

A lot of players has solid games tonight and I don't think I'll have enough time to break them all down so I'll pick and choose a few. I'll start off with Ossi Vaananen. It's almost like the coach said to Ossi "Maybe pinch more often" and Ossi went "Ok" and that was all it took for him to start jumping into the play offensively. I couldn't count the number of times I saw him jump in and keep the puck in or try and sneak behind the Tampa D for a scoring chance. When I first saw it happen I had to back up the video and make sure it really was him. He was also solid on defense and absolutely crushed Lecavalier at one point.

And if I give kudos to Ossi Vaananen, I have to give it to Karlis Skrastins as well. Our iron man put in a great defensive showing while logging an amazing 26 minutes of ice-time. He also came flying off the bench during a powerplay and blasted a puck on net which was deflected by Tyler Arnason into the back of the net. Cumiskey had just gone off the ice during the PP and Clark passed to where Cumiskey would have been. So Skrastins put on the wheels and sent the puck flying, much to Joe Sakic's liking as he had a huge smile on his face after that play. At the end of the night, Skrastins came away with 2 assists, 2 blocked shots, 26 minutes in ice-time and a +2 rating. I don't think he's played a more complete game all season.

Finally, a plus to a couple more defensemen. Kyle Cumiskey continues to look extremely comfortable and competent on the ice. With the puck on his stick, he's cool, calm and collected making smart plays to keep possession of the puck for the Avs. He plays well in the defensive zone and looks to be a very solid d-man in the future. Once Brisebois is back, he'll likely find himself back in the minors but I can easily see him on the roster full-time next season. And Brett Clark found himself with 25 minutes in ice-time as he was partnered with Skrastins as usual. I actually have a tough time deciphering which one I should give kudos to for a good play since "3" and "5" look very much alike on the Avs jerseys.

So, what we've learned from the last 3 paragraphs is that if you can give a lot of defensemen pats on the back, it's likely a game that the Avalanche won. I know, I know, it's a bit surprising. But it is what it is and we're going to have to accept that if the Avs play well defensively, they're going to get points.

To go along with solid defensive play by the d-men, the forwards were also doing their part. Both by putting the puck in the back of the opposing net and hustling back to try and prevent the puck from going into their own net. That sort of hustle led to a goal by Hejduk as Stastny absolutely stripped Dan Boyle of the puck and went in 2-on-1, fed Hejduk a great pass and the Duke buried it.

Wolski also had some jump in his step on the backcheck and I find he's started finishing his checks more often. They're not crushing hits by any means, but the definition of finishing your check is to simply put the body on your opponent and eliminate him from the flow of the play. Wolski wasn't rewarded with any points tonight but he still put in a solid showing. He did take a penalty in the third but it was a pretty weak call as Alexeev went down on his own accord I believe.

The Stastny, Hejduk, Brunette line ended up getting top-line minutes tonight with Sakic, Wolski, Svatos right behind them. It didn't quite match the minutes of the Lecavalier-St. Louis-Prospal line for Tampa. Tampa plays the balls off of Lecavalier and St. Louis who both picked up about 24 minutes of ice-time, including a 2 1/2 minute shift at the end of the game. Prospal (who averages a 1 minute long shift!) and Richards also played just under 24 minutes. To accomodate those sort of minutes, it meant that Tim Taylor and Andre Roy both got less than 4 minutes of ice-time. Yep, Tim Taylor is their captain and he gets 3 1/2 minutes on the ice. He must be one hell of a leader off the ice.

The Avalanche special teams didn't get much chance to strut their stuff tonight. Both teams did a good job of staying out of the box. The Lightning did bury one powerplay goal on a 4-on-3. However, I'm very forgiving of 4-on-3 advantages because their much harder to defend than a 5-on-4 if you ask me. On the PK, I did see more pressure on the opposing team which forces them to make quicker decisions, thus leading to poor passes. Let's hope they keep it up tonight.

The Good
- solid game offensively and defensively
- 3 point night for Stastny

The Bad
- PP goal against (it's still bad)

The Ugly
- Lappy's snake bite

Friday, January 5, 2007

Pre-game vs Tampa Bay - Jan 5, 2007

Boy that was a long break from Avs hockey. 4-day off stretches are never good for teams, particularly this one it seems. It's a time to heal wounds, rest your mind, relax with family...and turn down the "desire" switch just a bit. It's the first meeting of these teams since the '03/'04 season which always makes it a fun game. Tampa did everyone a favor last night in beating the Wild in regulation so let's hope they used up a lot of steam in that victory and that the Avs can pick apart a tired and struggling team.

Tonight gives everyone their first chance to see Ben Guite since he has been called up from Albany. The person sent down in his place? Brad Richardson. It was a bit of a controversial move from a fan standpoint. Brad had gained a bit of a following with his solid play and Sakic-like wristshot. However, the fact remains that there isn't much room for him in the top two lines and his development was likely stagnating. Now he gets a chance to play some top-line minutes in the AHL and come back a better player for it.

Brett Mclean should also make his return tonight from a back injury that kept him out of the last 3 games. He should be fired up to try and make an impact. He's most likely back in a third-line role, possibly with Arnason and Hejduk who have been struggling lately but formed a pretty good line earlier on in the season.

Patrice Brisebois is still out with a back injury though with the return of Brett Mclean, it could mean that Kyle Cumiskey is back in street clothes tonight. It's unfortunate since he had a good game against Nashville but Kurt Sauer has stepped up his play lately so he will likely be the 6th d-man tonight. Hopefully the Avs blueline can get healthy and stabilize before the playoff stretch run because it's going to be tough to get in with inconsistent defense.

Puck drop is at 8:08 EST and I will unfortunately miss the game while I'm at a going-away supper for a friend. So a post-game analysis likely won't come until tomorrow at best. It will depend on getting a download of the game or being able to record the audio to listen back.

Patrice Brisebois - back, day-to-day
Jordan Leopold - groind, IR

Rob DiMaio - concussion, IR

Sakic has 18 in 12, Wolski has 8 in 5, Brunette has 8 in 6, Stastny has 7 in 6, Svatos has 2 in 2.

Lecavalier and St. Louis have 20 in 13, Richards has 13 in 13, Boyle has 9 in 6.

Laperriere has 0 in 10, Laaksonen has 0 in 9, Turgeon has 0 in 5, Arnason and Clark have 1 in 6, Hejduk has 1 in 5.

Alexeev and Craig have 0 in 5, Perrin has 0 in 3.

Peter Budaj - 10-8-1, 2.52 GAA, .906 save pct
Marc Denis - 9-11-2, 3.11 GAA, .878 save pct

Colorado - 19-18-2, 5th in NW, 10th in West
Tampa Bay - 19-20-2, 4th in Southeast, 13th in West

Monday, January 1, 2007

Post-game vs Nashville - Jan 1, 2007

And a happy new year it is as the Avs put away the 2nd overall team in the West. Lose to the Blue but beat the Predators. Sounds about right. Either way, the win ensures the Avs don't lose too much ground in the tight Northwest division. They stay in 4th place, one point behind Vancouver and 2 points behind Minnesota and Calgary and are unfortunately still out of a playoff position. With a pretty tough January ahead of them, the Avs better build on this momentum and put the .500 days of 2006 in the past.

Joe Sakic moves into the top 10 for all-time scoring leaders with his 3 assists tonight. Since it was a road-game, not much was made of it but I wonder if there might be some sort of quick pre-game announcement or vignette before their next home game. It would be a nice touch for a man who shys away from the spotlight as much as he tries. Well Joe, you're in the top 10 now so the spotlight is shining directly on you for the time being...soak it up.

The Avs went with 7 D tonight as Richardson, Brisebois and Mclean were out with injury. So this gave everyone their first chance to see what Kyle Cumiskey could do. He ended up with 11 minutes in ice-time and appeared very composed considering it was his first NHL game. He made some good defensive plays and made few mistakes. Kurt Sauer also played a decent game which is good to see. I've never been a big fan of Sauer but if he can contribute, then I'm all smiles. These 2 were actually paired together for the most part tonight.

The defenseman that ended up with limited ice-time tonight was Ken Klee. He ended up playing under 12 minutes which is unusual as he's typically right up there in ice-time. Ossi Vaananen, who buried a goal tonight, ended up with near 15 minutes of ice-time and had a +2 rating. Again, Skrastins and Clark were the 2 D on the PK with a bit of contribution from Klee and Sauer. So it appears that the Avs don't enough defensive D-men to contribute to the PK. Well, I'd guess it might be getting close to the time where they need to address that deficiency.

Special teams continue to haunt the Avalanche. They went 0 for 5 on the PP and were a dismal 2 for 4 on the PK. Thankfully they were able to get it done at even strength today but they won't always be afforded that luxury. The first PK of the game seemed like they had figured things out. They pressured the Preds, chased loose pucks in the corner, and cleared the zone at times. The next couple weren't so good and both led to goals. The second goal was off an Avs players skate so I'm less inclined to say it was a terrible PK but the fact remains that the puck ended up in the net. The power play, for the most part, appears disorganized. There's no booming shot from the point and there seems to be no real set plays that the players try and put together.

Coach Q decided to shake up the lines a bit and paired Hejduk with Stastny and Brunette and moved Svatos up to the top line with Sakic and Wolski. And it appeared to work. Hejduk potted one (though it sounds like it was Svatos' goal) as did Brunette. Wolski walked away with a pair after hitting the empty net. Svatos came away with 2 assists and Sakic ended up with 3 on the night. Tyler Arnason also broke his 5 game point drought with an assist. So in this case, line juggling worked. And it was a justified time to do it what with the whole "not winning in 3 games" issue.

Svatos finally showed some jump in his step tonight. It appeared more related to getting a goal (which he didn't get credit for) more than just playing on the top line. Hitting a sophomore slump as he did can take a toll on your confidence and as easy as it is to sit here and say "He needs to break out of that!", let's face it...the game is a very mental game and this is only his second full season. You have to give players time to mature mentally so they can fight through those slumps which all players go through.

Both Wojtek Wolski and Peter Budaj had good games tonight. Wolski continues to be a force out there as he buried the first goal of the game and added an empty netter to seal the win. He is now on pace for a 30 goal season which I think is more than acceptable for his rookie season. Peter Budaj added his 10th win of the season moving him into the lead for pretty much every goaltending stat there is for the team. Is he the #1 now?

The Good
- road win against a top team
- point droughts snapped for 3 players (Arnason, Clark, Hejduk)

The Bad
- 2 PP goals against
- 0 PP goals for

The Ugly
- Avalanche special teams play

Pre-game vs Nashville - Jan 1, 2007

Happy new year! It's a little closer to game time than usual to get the pre-game up but I decided to sleep in on the first day of the new year. As I woke up I remembered that the players weren't afforded that luxury, nor were they afforded the luxury of being at home with family and friends to ring in the new year. Sometimes you have to ensure you remember that these athletes are people too. But enough of that, they've got a game to win tonight!

The Avalanche find themselves mired in a slump right now that has seen them lose their last 3 games, including back-to-back games against the lowly Blues. Given the Avs penchant for playing up to teams better than them, Nashville could be a good fit to break that slump this afternoon. It won't be an easy task though as Nashville have won 8 of their last 10.

Patrice Brisebois remains saddled with a back injury and will be out of the lineup tonight. So that means Kyle Cumiskey gets to stay up in the big leagues. Whether he'll actually play during this time, I'm not sure. I don't even think the coaches are sure. It appears so far that Kurt Sauer has played well enough to stay in the lineup. I still don't think that should rule out playing Cumiskey for a game. They're in a 3 game losing streak, shake it up a bit and see what happens. If Cumiskey isn't playing well, shorten the bench and go with 5 D.

Joe Sakic continues on his quest to surpass Paul Coffeey for 10th all-time in scoring. Actually, he's just continuing on a quest to reach the playoffs. If he surpasses Coffey along the way, it'll be gravy for him. He needs 2 points to take sole possession of 10th and I think it's safe to say we're all rooting for him.

It seems to me like tonight is the night for some players to snap out of cold spells. Namely, Tyler Arnason and Milan Hejduk. With 0 points in the last 5 and 4 games respectively, you can't help but expect one or both to break that sooner rather than later. As I always say, the more things stay the same, the more likely they are to change. I'd also be on the lookout for Turgeon to break his 4 game point drought. You can only keep that crafty veteran off the scoresheet for so long. Maybe re-uniting him with Svatos could help kickstart that. It remains to be seen if Q agrees with the idea!

For those wondering who is in goal, as Avs fans always do these last couple seasons...I have no idea. It seems that Theodore has completely lost Quenneville's confidence in him so is likely to go with Peter Budaj. It also seems that it doesn't much matter who is put in goal but that's a different story. Budaj certainly didn't get lit up in his last 2 games, but the team wasn't able to pull out the win which is the most important thing to look for.

And if the fans didn't have enough fun saying "We ran into a hot goalie" the last couple games, tonight they'll run into a hotter one. Chris Mason has a 3-1-0 record in his last 4 and accompanies that record with a 1.23 GAA and .962 save pct. I guess they don't miss Tomas Vokoun as much as people would have expected. As long as the Avs keep shooting from the perimeter, he shall remain a hot goalie. If they bang in there and get some dirty goals, they have a chance at lighting him up.

Jordan Leopold - groin, IR
Patrice Brisebois - back, day-to-day
Brett Mclean - back, day-to-day

Tomas Vokous - thumb, IR
Scottie Upshall - groin IR

Sakic has 15 in 11, Brunette has 7 in 5, Wolski has 6 in 4, Stastny has 6 in 5.

Kariya has 6 in 4, Legwand has 5 in 4, Kimmo Timonen has 7 in 7.

Laperriere has 0 in 9, Arnason has 0 in 5, Hejduk and Turgeon have 0 in 4, Clark has 0 in 5.

Sullivan, Arnott and Dumont have 0 in 3, Suter has 0 in 4.

Peter Budaj - 9-8-1, 2.47 GAA, .907 save pct
Chris Mason - 15-6-2, 2.27 GAA, .929 save pct

Colorado - 18-18-2, 4th in NW, 9th in West
Nashville - 26-10-3, 1st in Central, 2nd in West