Avalanche defenseman John-Michael Liles appears to be regaining the offensive form that he displayed during his record-setting start to the season.
Liles, who established a new NHL record for defensemen by opening the year with assists in each of his first nine games, had recently gone through a bit of a dry spell in the offensive zone. In a 12-game span from Dec. 19 through Jan. 12, the blueliner recorded just two assists while going pointless in the last five of those contests.
The Indianapolis native started to come out of that dry spell with an assist during Friday night’s 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild before tying his career-high with three points (1g/2a) in tonight’s 4-3 overtime victory over Vancouver.
Liles scored Colorado’s first goal of the night, striking on the power play at the 15:41 mark of the opening frame. After taking a pass from Milan Hejduk
, Liles fired a wrist shot from the right circle that eluded Vancouver netminder Roberto Luongo.
"We’re getting the power-play back on track and I think we had a pretty good start to the season and we tapered off a bit," said Liles. "I think getting Stewie [Chris Stewart] back in front helps and having his big body definitely helped. He’s a tremendous player and he’s got a lot of speed and it forces teams to respect it.”
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound blueliner also picked up a pair of secondary assists in the middle frame on tallies by David Jones
and Milan Hejduk
Tonight’s game marked the eighth three-point effort of the puck-moving defenseman’s career.
With 34 points (6g/28a) this season, Liles has now surpassed his total from all of last year (31) and has tied his goal total from a season ago. Porter’s Penalty Shot
Forward Kevin Porter
was awarded the first penalty shot of his NHL career during the second period of tonight’s game. With almost 11 minutes gone in the middle frame, Porter got behind the Vancouver defense and corralled a long headman pass, leading to a breakaway.
Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa hooked Porter on the play, leading to the penalty shot. However, Luongo was able to turn aside a wrist shot from the Avalanche forward to keep Vancouver’s cushion at a goal (2-1) for the time being.
Porter's penalty shot was the first by an Av in 2010-11. The unsuccessful attempt marked the first time an Avalanche player had failed to score on a penalty shot since Brett Clark on Nov. 18, 2005 at Anaheim. Colorado players had gone 5-for-5 in their last five attempts prior to tonight.Galiardi Mans The Pivot
With Ryan O’Reilly (shoulder) now sidelined for a couple weeks, TJ Galiardi stepped back into the lineup tonight and took over at a center spot.
Galiardi, a healthy scratch during Colorado’s last game, was shuffled around a little during the game, spending some time centering Daniel Winnik and Kevin Porter
and also playing the pivot between David Koci and Cody McLeod
at other points.
Overall, Galiardi saw 11:33 of ice time and delivered two hits.
The position is far from unfamiliar to Galiardi, who played both center and left wing while coming up through the Avalanche’s system. The Calgary native skated as a center during his call-up at the end of the 2008-09 campaign and then started last season as Colorado’s fourth-line center before earning a spot at left wing on one of Colorado’s top scoring lines.
Galiardi also played a bit of center earlier this season. After coming back from a 17-game injury absence, Galiardi manned the pivot for a Dec. 17 game against Ottawa while Paul Stastny
was sidelined with a back injury. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound forward scored Colorado’s first goal of the game against the Senators in an eventual 6-5 overtime triumph.
Cumiskey To Return Thursday?
Although Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco hinted on Sunday that Kyle Cumiskey could possibly return to the lineup for tonight’s game against Vancouver, it was ultimately decided that a few extra days of practice could benefit the defenseman.
Cumiskey last played on Oct. 30, when he suffered a concussion against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The blueliner has been working himself back into game shape and has been cleared to play, but missed his 35th consecutive game tonight.
“He is available, but I decided that he needs a couple more days still, so we’ll get him ready for Thursday hopefully,” said Sacco. “Another good day of practice tomorrow and we’ll see where he is after that.”