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Avs Take Up-Tempo Approach

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
The up-tempo philosophy that Avalanche head coach Tony Granato has been preaching since training camp was in full effect Thursday night at Pepsi Center, where Colorado downed the Philadelphia Flyers by a 5-2 count.

The Avalanche took the puck to the net aggressively and was tenacious on the forecheck, leading to myriad scoring opportunities in the contest. Adding a trio of power-play tallies didn’t hurt either.

After ranking 15th in the National Hockey League a season ago in goals-per-game (2.73), Colorado has totaled 15 goals in four contests (3.75 per-game) so far this year.

Continuing another early-season trend, the Avalanche put the puck on net seemingly at will against the Flyers. Coming into the game, the Avs had out-shot their opponents 101-74, and things didn’t change much tonight.

The Avs held a 17-3 shot advantage after one period en route to a 34-18 margin in the final box score.

Colorado jumped out to a 2-0 lead after one period on goals from Brett Clark and Marek Svatos. On Clark’s goal, Avs captain Joe Sakic controlled the puck and weaved around several Philly defenders before making a cross-ice feed to the defenseman, who beat Martin Biron with a snap shot from the top of the left faceoff circle at 9:01.

Svatos gave the Avs a two-goal cushion when he buried a Wojtek Wojtek feed from the slot at 16:09 with Colorado on a power play.

Philadelphia’s Simon Gagne put his team on the board on a penalty shot at 4:33 after being hooked by John-Michael Liles on a breakaway. Gagne, who had just sprung loose from the penalty box when the infraction occurred, beat netminder Andrew Raycroft on his penalty shot attempt with a low backhander.

Milan Hejduk responded for the Avs 44 seconds later on the power play after gathering a Sakic feed in the low slot and firing a wrister past Biron at 5:17.

Flyers captain Mike Richards cut the Avs’ lead back to one goal, 3-2, on a tally during a 5-on-3 advantage for Philadelphia, but Cody McCormick again gave Colorado a two-goal advantage with 36 seconds remaining in the second period.

The previously mentioned aggressive forecheck was on full display during Colorado’s fourth goal, as McCormick first knocked the puck away from a Philadelphia defenseman, which David Jones then corralled before rewarding McCormick with a one-timer for a goal at 19:24.

Colorado’s power play struck again in the final frame, as Ryan Smyth set up Paul Stastny with a pretty feed at 12:43 to give the home team a 5-2 lead. Smyth picked up a deflected centering attempt from Sakic and, while facing away from the net, made a no-look feed between his legs to Stastny for a tap-in goal.

Foote Honored
Prior to tonight’s contest, the Avalanche honored Adam Foote for his 1,000th NHL game. Foote achieved the milestone this past Sunday in Edmonton, becoming the 40th active player and 14th defenseman to hit the 1,000 game mark. Tonight was Foote’s 815th contest with the Avalanche/Nordiques organization, the second-highest mark in team history behind Joe Sakic (1,367).

Avalanche assistant coach Jacques Cloutier - who played in goal for the Nordiques during Foote’s first NHL game - joined Adam’s wife, Jennifer, and sons, Callan and Nolan, on the ice for the ceremony.

The National Hockey League’s Vice President of Hockey Operations Jim Gregory was on hand to honor Foote with a Tiffany crystal, while Avalanche Assistant to the GM and Hall of Fame left wing Michel Goulet presented the defenseman with a silver stick to commemorate the milestone.

Four Straight
Both Sakic and Stastny extended their season-opening point streaks to four games tonight. Sakic contributed a trio of assists, giving the captain six points (1g/5a) on the season. Stastny had a goal and an assist, also giving him six points (1g/5a) this year.

The last Avalanche player to tally points in each of the first four games of a season was Teemu Selanne in 2003-04.

Notes: Tonight was Raycroft’s first regular season appearance with the Avalanche and his 200th career NHL contest…The netminder stopped 16-of-18 shots to earn the victory…Colorado, which came into the game with the sixth-best faceoff percentage (55.3%) in the NHL, won 30-of-50 (60.0%) draws tonight.
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