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Avs Come to Desert with Exorcise Plan

by Scott Ward / Colorado Avalanche

The Avs went into their Tuesday night home game against Chicago wanting to get back on track at home after falling to the Florida Panthers a few nights earlier in front of their own fans.

The setback to the Panthers was the third straight loss for the Avalanche (15-5-0), and while the players said they weren’t worried, there was a sense that the team wanted to make a statement—and soon!—before losing all the momentum it had built up through the first six weeks of the season.

Colorado ended up blitzing the Blackhawks with three goals scored in a seven-minute stretch in the first period before sending off the defending Stanley Cup champions with a 5-1 loss.

The Avs wanted a statement. The Avs made a statement.

“We had that three-game skid, and it was nice to get out of it,” winger Patrick Bordeleau said. “It was nice to get out of it at home. It was important and a big win.”

Snapping the streak at home was nice, but there’s still work to be done.

The first two losses of that recent streak came on the road—against Carolina and St. Louis— and that’s where the Avalanche finds itself tonight, with a 7 p.m. MT road game scheduled against the Phoenix Coyotes at Arena in Glendale, Ariz.

The one bad mark on the Avalanche’s schedule/results chart this year started last Tuesday in Raleigh, N.C., with a 2-1 loss to the Hurricanes, and continued a week ago in St. Louis when the Blues scored four second-period goals in a 7-3 win.

Tuesday’s rout of the Blackhawks was nice, but it didn’t exorcise all the Avs’ recent demons.

“Last game doesn’t really matter, doesn’t really mean anything, if we don’t come up big tonight and have a big road game,” Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said. “We talked about bouncing back last game, but we want to bounce back tonight, considering our last road trip wasn’t the greatest. We want to get back to that winning mentality on the road, and [we’ve got] a great opportunity tonight.”

Phoenix (14-4-3) hasn’t lost a home game in regulation this season (9-0-1), and Colorado is 6-2 away from Pepsi Center after winning its first six road games this season. This one figures to be a battle of “our good vs. your good” and one of the better matchups in the NHL tonight.

And it could be high-scoring, or at least high-flying. Both teams like to shoot the puck around, with the Coyotes ranking 12th in the NHL with 30.5 shots per game and the Avs coming in 16th at an even-30 shots per game.

The difference in a potential Colorado victory might come in the amount of those shots that actually touch the netting. Phoenix scores at a great clip (3.29/game; fourth in the NHL) but allows 3.05 goals per game (24th). The Avs score at nearly the same rate (3.20; fifth) but have been far better in team defense, allowing just 2.1 goals per game (third).

As of Wednesday, the Avs were the only team in the NHL to rank in the top five in both goals scored and goals allowed.

“[Phoenix has] got a good team over there,” Cody McLeod said. “It should be a good test for us tonight. We’ve got to get to the front of the net, get a lot of shots and hopefully get some rebounds.”


Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy hinted Tuesday that Matt Duchene might have been able to make this trip and potentially play tonight or Saturday in Los Angeles. Duchene missed the Avs' game against the Blackhawks with an oblique injury suffered Saturday against Florida.

Matt Duchene  

After Duchene took part Wednesday in some pre-practice skating drills, though, Roy and Matt Sokolowski, the Avs’ head athletic trainer, decided to take the cautious approach with Duchene’s return.

Duchene, who leads Colorado in goals (12) and points (20) didn’t travel with the team and joins defenseman Ryan Wilson (back) and forward Alex Tanguay, who are on injured reserve.

“He wanted to play [tonight], but he realized there was no way he could play,” Roy said. “We need him 100 percent, not 80 or 95 percent, even if he’d be a great player for us at that level. I think it is important for him to make sure that he takes care of himself and be 100 percent when he comes back.”

- Semyon Varlamov, who stopped 36 shots Tuesday night against Chicago to improve to 10-5 this season, will start tonight in net. Roy didn’t commit to anything beyond that, knowing he’s got a great alternative should he need it in Jean-Sebastien Giguere (5-0, 1.73 GAA).

“Varly will play tomorrow, and [goaltending coach] Francois [Allaire] said we’ll talk after [tonight’s] game and see what will be our next call.”

- Defenseman Matt Hunwick was reassigned to AHL Lake Erie on Wednesday after being recalled from the Monsters on Nov. 4. He played Saturday night against Florida.

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