Eight games into the season, the Colorado Avalanche has yet to face off against a Northwest Division opponent.
That will change this week, as the Avalanche will take on the Vancouver Canucks (Tuesday) and Calgary Flames (Thursday) during a two-game Canadian road trip.
“They’re both very strong teams and we have a pretty good rivalry with both of them, so it won’t be too hard to get up for those games,” said Matt Duchene
. “We just have to do a little bit better job of being harder to play against in our end.”
Colorado is the only team in the Northwest that has yet to play a game against a divisional foe. Currently, only four other NHL teams (Boston, Carolina, Dallas and San Jose) are in the same boat as the Avalanche, having not yet played within their respective divisions.
In a league where a single game (especially one against a division rival) can sometimes be the difference in gaining a higher playoff seed – or qualifying for the postseason at all - it’s important for the Avalanche to start off its divisional schedule in the right manner.
“We went on the road there for a bit and it was all out of division and out of conference games,” said defenseman Ryan Wilson
. “It’ll be nice to get things going in our division against good teams. Points are hard to come by, no matter when it is in the year. We’re looking to get as many as we can and it starts in games against divisional opponents.”
Hannan Will Travel, Foote Won’t
The Avs, who were already playing without injured captain Adam Foote (head) during Saturday’s game against Los Angeles, suffered another setback when fellow blueliner Scott Hannan was forced to leave the game with a head injury.
Hannan logged only 5:51 of ice time before leaving that contest, but was back on the ice for practice today. He will travel with the team on the road trip, but it’s yet to be determined if the veteran defenseman will suit up against the Canucks.
“I’ll know more after I talk to our medical staff, but it was encouraging that he made it through practice today,” said Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco. “We’ll see how he presents later on and how he presents in the morning.”
Sacco did confirm, however, that Foote will not join the club on its quick swing through British Columbia and Alberta.
Foote’s absence means the Avalanche will be missing 19 years of NHL experience on the blue line, but there are other battle-tested players the Avalanche’s young roster can look to until the captain returns.
“There are a couple other guys who are leaders on the back end in Johnny Liles and Scott Hannan,” said Wilson. “Those guys have been great to all the young guys. They’re out there doing their thing and they lead by example rather than being vocal.”Budaj To Start
Sacco also said following practice that Peter Budaj will get his second start of the year tomorrow against Vancouver. Budaj picked up a win in his previous go-round, making 24 saves and stopping all six shootout attempts in a 5-4 win in Detroit on Oct. 12.
“We’re approaching our ninth game and Peter played well in Detroit,” said Sacco. “I think he deserves an opportunity to get in there and play again.”
The Banska, Bystrica, Slovakia native has had some success against the Canucks in the past, posting a 5-3-1 record with a 2.87 goals-against average in 11 career games versus Vancouver.