DETROIT--Joining a new team in the middle of the season is never an easy task for a player. From learning the ropes of how a different organization runs day-to-day life to figuring out a new system and trying to develop a rapport with teammates, the transition period can often be a bit rocky at times for even the most seasoned veteran.
Michael Hutchinson considers himself lucky that his first week with the Colorado Avalanche featured a five-day, three-game road trip to get him immersed into the culture of new club. There isn't much else to do on the road other than hang out with your teammates at the rink, on buses and planes and at the hotel.
"The guys have been very welcoming," Hutchinson said. "Getting to know them, they've come up and introduced themselves when I first got traded. Getting a chance to be on the road and you're just with that group, it definitely makes the transition easier and you get to know the guys even better. It's been a fun road trip getting to know the guys and just feeling more comfortable."
A week after being acquired at last Monday's Trade Deadline from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Hutchinson will now get to show the Avs what he is made of on the ice. He'll make his debut for Colorado this evening as the club faces the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena.
"It's exciting. There's obviously some nerves that go with it, but this has been a good group of guys," Hutchinson said following morning skate in Detroit. "It's been fun to watch them play the last couple games and try to get familiar with the way that they play from watching the game closely. I'm really looking forward to getting a start and getting a chance to battle with them."
Video: Goalie Michael Hutchinson on preparing for Avs debut
The Avalanche picked up 3-2 victories at the Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators on the first two stops of its road trip and has won six straight overall.
With Philipp Grubauer still out with a lower-body injury and Pavel Francouz having started each of Colorado's last seven contests (winning his last six), the moment seemed right to get Hutchinson in the crease.
"Hutch has been here long enough now that he's worked with [goaltending coach Jussi Parkkila], and he's been getting some good work in on game days and practice days," said Avs head coach Jared Bednar. "He's settled with the guys, so we feel like it's good timing for him to get an opportunity and go in the net for us and go and try to get us a win."
Hutchinson, who is celebrating his 30th birthday today, played in 15 games with the Maple Leafs earlier this season and has a 4-9-1 record. He was placed in several tough situations earlier this year with Toronto, including playing the second half of a back-to-back six times.
One of his victories was against the Red Wings on Dec. 21, as he made 29-of-30 saves in the Leafs' 4-1 win. He has a 2-1-1 record, 2.92 goals-against average and .904 save percentage in four career outings versus Detroit.
"I don't think it really matters who you play in this league. Everyone has skill and everyone can be dangerous if you don't show up and work hard for that night. So you just kind of prepare for everyone the same way," Hutchinson said. "Obviously there's some familiarity with playing Detroit before, but at the same time we play a totally different system here than what we played in Toronto. You have to just be ready for everything and as a goalie let the game come to you."
A victory for Hutchinson against the Red Wings won't only extend the Avalanche's winning streak to a season long and extend the franchise-record road winning streak (currently at eight games), but it would also set a little history in the team annals.
With Grubauer, Francouz and prospects Antoine Bibeau and Adam Werner all picking up victories this year, it would mark only the second time in franchise history, and first since the club moved to Colorado in 1995, that it had five different goalies earn a win in the same season.
Hutchinson's start this evening will make it just the third season in franchise history that has seen the club use at least five different goalies in a campaign, joining the Quebec Nordiques' squads of 1989-90 (seven goalies, five picked up wins) and 1990-91 (five goalies, three picked up wins).
THIRD STAR FRANKIE
After being named the NHL's First Star of the week last Monday, goaltender Pavel Francouz earned more honors earlier today by being named the Third Star in the league's weekly honors.
It is the first time that the Avalanche has had a player being named to the NHL's weekly three stars in back-to-back weeks since the format began in 2006-07.
Francouz won all three of his games this past week and finished with a 2.00 goals-against average and .946 save percentage, the best numbers of any goaltender that won three or more games. He has won his last six starts, allowing two goals or fewer in each outing for a 1.32 goals-against average and .957 save percentage.
Tyson Jost (two goals and two assists) and Samuel Girard (one goal, three assists) are both on three-game point streaks, matching career highs, while Gabriel Landeskog is on a four-game point streak (two goals, two assists).
The last five wins of Colorado six-game winning streak have all been one-goal victories, including three straight 3-2 results. This is the first time the Avs have won five straight games and all by one goal since March 25-April 3, 2014. This is the first time that Colorado has had three straight wins by the exact same score since Jan. 18-22, 2016 (2-1).
The contest at Detroit is the first of 16 games in March, which will match a franchise record for the most contests in any month. The Avs have played 16 games in a month only five times before: January 2004 and March 2003, 2004, 2012 and 2017.
The Avalanche and Red Wings will wrap up their two-game season series. Colorado won 6-3 in the first matchup on Jan. 20 in Denver.