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Walking the Line

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
Anyone who has been following the Avalanche during the first month of the 2008-09 campaign shouldn’t be surprised that the Ryan Smyth-Paul Stastny-Milan Hejduk line combination led the way during Colorado’s 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.

The trio, which came together near the end of the 2007-08 regular season, has established itself as one of the top line combinations in the league by totaling 24 points (11g/13a) through the first six games of this season.

The following is a brief breakdown of the line’s performance versus the Kings, along with a look at the impact each individual has had on Colorado’s potent offense (4.00 goals-per-game, t-1st in NHL) so far in 2008-09.

Smyth Stings Kings Again
A season ago, Ryan Smyth was arguably the Avs’ strongest forward against Los Angeles. The left wing did nothing to change that perception during the first regular season meeting between the clubs this year.

After leading the Avs with five goals and six points in four games against Los Angeles a season ago, Smyth scored twice against the Kings on Monday. He first tied the game at 1-1 in the opening period and then scored the eventual game-winner in the second on a highlight reel tally. After faking around rookie defender Drew Doughty, Smyth shelved a backhander past Jason LaBarbera while falling down to give Colorado a 4-2 lead. Watch Smyth's goal

Following his performance, Smyth was named the First Star of the Night on

In 45 career games versus the Kings, Smyth has totaled 46 points (23g/23a) - his highest scoring total against a single opponent.

Hejduk’s Hot Hand
Hejduk scored his sixth goal in six games during the second period of Monday night’s matchup. After a Los Angeles giveaway ended up on his stick near the blue line, Hejduk’s patience was on full display as he waited for Kings defenseman Denis Gauthier Jr. to drop down to one knee before moving around him and firing a shot by LaBarbera. Watch Hejduk's tally

Hejduk now has a three-game goal streak – totaling four goals during that span – and has scored in five of Colorado’s six contests this season. Even with his impressive goal-scoring spree, the veteran forward has a long way to go to break his career-best streak.

During the 2002-03 campaign, Hejduk notched a goal in seven consecutive games from Feb. 11-23, 2003, en route to capturing the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy with a 50-goal performance.

The Usti-nad Labem, Czech Republic, native is also on the verge of a milestone, as he currently sits just nine tallies shy of the 300-goal mark for his career.

Stastny leads the Avalanche with 10 points (1g/9a) through six games
Stastny Sets the Table
While Smyth and Hejduk were making flashy plays, you’d be remiss if you didn’t mention the steady play of Stastny, their center and the team’s leading point-getter.

The third-year forward recorded his third multi-assist game of the season – and fourth straight multi-point effort – on Monday by notching helpers on both of Smyth’s goals. The points helped to keep his season-opening six-game point streak alive.

Stastny leads the Avalanche with 10 points (1g/9a) through six games and is averaging over a point-per-game in his young career – having totaled 53 goals and 106 assists in 154 contests.

Through Monday’s games, Stastny finds himself in a tie with Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin and Montreal’s Andrei Markov for the league lead in assists. He’s also deadlocked with Washington’s Alexander Semin for second in points, trailing only Malkin (11).

Stastny has been especially effective with the man advantage. The University of Denver product is tied for second in the NHL in both power-play assists and points (1g/5a).

Overall, the Smyth-Stastny-Hejduk line has totaled 13 points on the power play (6g/7a).

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