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Three Question Recap: Nov. 30 at Tampa Bay

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
1. With David Jones now out for a long stretch of time and Milan Hejduk (knee) still not completely healthy, what did the line combinations look like tonight?

It might have been hard to tell at times due to a large amount of penalties. With so much special teams play, it seemed hard for either team to get into a flow during 5-on-5 action. As an example, Avalanche enforcer David Koci (who doesn’t play on the power play or penalty kill) didn’t even touch the ice for the first 32 minutes of the contest.

When there were stretches of 5-on-5 action, Paul Stastny centered Wojtek Wolski and Marek Svatos, while Matt Duchene was flanked by Cody McLeod and Chris Stewart.

The Avalanche did see the return of T.J. Galiardi tonight after the rookie forward missed Saturday’s game with a stiff back. Galiardi played the left side on a line with Ryan O’Reilly and Darcy Tucker. Finally, Matt Hendricks centered Koci and Chris Durno.

For Durno, it was his first action since being recalled for a third time this season on Friday. Meanwhile, Brian Willsie was recalled from Lake Erie earlier in the day but was a healthy scratch.

The defense didn’t see any changes, as Kyle Quincey and Scott Hannan skated together, as did Avalanche captain Adam Foote and rookie Ryan Wilson. Brett Clark and John-Michael Liles comprised the other defensive pairing.
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2. Will this be considered Matt Duchene’s breakout game?
Following Saturday’s contest we took a look at the rookie’s recent success and compared it to his days playing junior hockey for the Brampton Battalion. You can access that feature here. In that piece we talked about how Duchene had been heating up and was beginning to hit his stride, and that was before his two-goal effort Monday night against the Lightning.

While the rookie’s season had been marred by bad luck and unfortunate bounces until recently, he finally caught a break or two tonight. He scored his fifth goal of the season in the opening frame after putting a wrist shot on Tampa Bay goaltender Antero Niittymaki. It appeared as though Niittymaki had made the stop, but the puck snuck through to give the Avs a 1-0 lead.

Duchene doubled that advantage with a power-play goal in the second period. After a battle along the right boards, Chris Stewart came away with the puck. Duchene - who essentially took the puck off Stewart’s stick when he fumbled it a bit - drove to the net and put one unsuccessful shot on goal before knocking home his own rebound.

The rookie now has points in three straight games for the first time in his NHL career.

While Duchene was deservedly the story of the game, Stewart was huge for the Avalanche as well. The second-year forward assisted on both of Duchene’s goals and played a physical all-around game. With Jones out, Stewart becomes that much more important for Colorado at the right wing spot.

3. Are the Avalanche’s power-play and penalty-killing units starting to return to form?
It certainly appeared that way tonight. As mentioned earlier, tonight’s game was a penalty-filled affair, meaning that the special teams units saw plenty of action on both sides of the ice.

Duchene’s second goal came with Colorado on a man-advantage, marking the fourth straight game the Avs have netted a power-play goal (the team’s longest streak since opening the season by scoring in six straight games).

The Avalanche started the 2009-10 season as one of the top penalty-killing teams in the league but had struggled a bit recently before holding Minnesota scoreless on four power-play chances Saturday night. Tonight’s contest proved to be a good test, as the Lightning had recorded a power-play tally in each of their last seven games.

Tampa Bay was awarded seven power plays on the evening, but the Avalanche thwarted each and every one of them. And while the penalty-killing unit was solid all around, Galiardi, Matt Hendricks and goaltender Craig Anderson were particularly extraordinary.

Galiardi (6:16) and Hendricks (5:02) saw a good deal of short-handed ice time and almost teamed up for a goal in the first period. With the Avs down a man, the pair went on a 2-on-1 rush up the ice that ended with Hendricks taking a Galiardi feed and ringing a shot off the post.

As for Anderson, it’s not often that a goaltender pitches a 33-save shutout and sees his performance almost get lost in the shuffle. The netminder made several huge stops, including a diving save on a Stephane Veilleux attempt in the third period, to earn his third shutout of the year.
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