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Practice Report: Budaj Shoulders Load

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
Alhough the Avalanche has been struggling to score goals lately, Peter Budaj has been nearly as stingy in letting the opposition on the scoreboard.

After admittedly pressing a bit early in the season, Budaj has found his rhythm over the past few weeks. In his last five starts, the Slovakian netminder is 3-2-0 with a 1.37 goals-against average and a .960 save percentage. Budaj’s recent record is even more impressive when you consider the Avs have scored just five goals in regulation during that stretch.

“If you ask any goalie they go through stretches when they’re either hot or cold,” Budaj said in regards to his slow start. “I just have to worry about the stuff that I have control over, like work ethic and preparation off the ice, and everything just comes together. I didn’t have the start that I wanted, but I feel good right now and hopefully we can get some wins.”

And despite dropping his last two decisions (both to the Calgary Flames), Budaj has been one of the biggest reasons the Avalanche has been in both contests right until the end. When you combine the numbers from Tuesday’s 4-1 loss at Calgary and Thursday’s 1-0 defeat at Pepsi Center, the goaltender has stopped 79-of-83 shots for a .952 save percentage in his last two outings.

While the score of Tuesday’s loss might seem a bit one-sided, it’s not indicative of the way Budaj played. Facing 50 shots, Budaj made a career-high 47 saves – the third most by a netminder in Avalanche history – and kept the club in the game until Calgary scored a pair of goals (including an empty-netter) in the final 28 seconds of the contest.

“It’s unfortunate that we didn’t win, but the team has helped me out a lot. They’ve cleared the rebounds in front of me and let me worry about the first shot,” said Budaj. “We’re not winning, so we’re not satisfied. I’m happy with the way I’m playing, but hopefully I can stay the course and we can get some wins out of this.”

Captain to Return?
Avalanche captain Joe Sakic traded in the bright orange non-contact jersey he wore on Wednesday for a more traditional gray practice sweater today. Does that mean the captain will be back in the lineup tomorrow against Los Angeles?

“I didn’t like him in the orange the other day, so we got him back in the grays,” quipped Avalanche head coach Tony Granato. “He practiced with his regular line. We’ll see how he is tomorrow after the travel and the morning skate. He’s definitely going on the trip and he’ll definitely try and get ready tomorrow morning; we’ll see where he’s at.”

Granato also touched on the impact Sakic can have on his teammates from a mental perspective. The 20-year veteran can always be counted on to put up points, but the calming influence he brings to the rink is just as important.

“When the guys look down the bench and look in the locker room and see that he’s in there, I think it makes everyone feel better about themselves,” said Granato. “It’ll be nice to get him back in there – I don’t know if it’ll be tomorrow or not – but certainly in the next couple of games.”

Svatos In, Guite Out
In other positive news, Marek Svatos practiced today after suffering an abdominal injury in the second period of Thursday’s game. Svatos did not come out for the third period against the Flames, but will be back in action tomorrow in Los Angeles.

“Svats looks good. I thought he looked really good in practice and he says he feels great. He’ll be back in there tomorrow,” said Granato.

Granato also said that forward Ben Guite (ribs) will not make the upcoming trip and remains out indefinitely. Guite did not take the ice for practice this morning.

Honoring a Legend
The Montreal Canadiens will retire the familiar No. 33 of goaltender Patrick Roy on Saturday during a ceremony prior to the club’s game against the Boston Bruins.

The former Avalanche netminder, who already has his jersey number hanging from the rafters in Denver, will become the 15th former Canadiens player to have his number retired.

Here’s what a few Avalanche players had to say about Roy’s honor.

“It’s a great honor to play in the NHL. Next is probably winning the Stanley Cup and then getting your number in the rafters. He’s earned every one of those. Hats off to him, because that’s quite an accomplishment. I know he surrounded himself with good teams over the years, but he was great at his position.”

-Ryan Smyth

“You don’t have to say much. You say ‘Patrick Roy’ and everybody knows. Even the people who don’t watch hockey know who he is. He’s the greatest goalie in the game and has the most wins. He was a determined competitor and helped the team win the Stanley Cup twice here and in Montreal. There’s not much I can say; you’ve heard it all.”
-Peter Budaj

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