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Smyth Displaying Gritty Game

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
When the Colorado Avalanche acquired Ryan Smyth in the offseason, the club knew it would be getting a player who brings a hard-nosed game to the ice. Perhaps what the organization didn’t know was how much Smyth – a self-described “mucker” – would rub off on the rest of the team.

For a team sometimes characterized as using more finesse than grit to win games, the Avalanche seemed to strike a healthy balance in earning a 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Sunday.

While Smyth’s first period goal off a nifty feed from Joe Sakic was a tally worthy of a highlight reel, the manner in which the play developed was more typical of the forward’s grinding style of play.

Smyth made a strong play at the defensive end, chipping the puck out of the zone before skating around a Wild defender and slipping a pass to Sakic near center ice to spark a 2-on-1 break. Approaching the net, Sakic showed just enough patience before threading a pass between Martin Skoula’s legs to Smyth, who tapped the puck past Josh Harding to give the Avs a 1-0 advantage. The goal, which was Smyth’s fifth of the season, was strikingly similar to his game-winner against Calgary on Friday night.

“Bruno, myself and Joe were together early on and we didn’t find it right away. We had one, maybe two exhibition games. Sometimes you need a little more time to gel,” said Smyth. “Obviously Joe is at the top of his game and makes everybody around him a lot better. It’s nice to get goals when he sets you up going to the net.”

In the second period, it was Sakic who displayed a bit of jam in his game when he won a physical battle with Skoula behind the Minnesota net and flipped a puck toward the crease. After a scramble in front of the goal that included attempts by Smyth and Marek Svatos, the latter grabbed his own rebound and knocked the puck past a sprawling Harding.

It was the fifth goal in 11 games this season for Svatos, a feat the forward didn’t accomplish until his 19th game a season ago.

The Avalanche finished off the Wild on a goal with 37 seconds remaining. After Andrew Brunette carried the puck into Minnesota’s zone and was tied up, Paul Stastny swooped in and grabbed the loose puck before feeding Wojtek Wolski for a power-play goal that sealed a 3-1 Colorado victory.

Notes: The Avs improved to 5-0 at home this season, joining the 1994-95 Quebec Nordiques as the only teams in franchise history to win their first five home games…Wolski’s goal extended his point streak to a career-high seven games (3g/5a)…The Avalanche has outscored its opponents by a 23-11 margin at home this season.

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