As is often the case the day before a game, a good chunk of the Avalanche’s practice on Wednesday morning focused on the team’s penalty-killing and power-play units. Special teams play is important in any contest, but it may hold even more weight on Thursday night when Colorado hosts the Vancouver Canucks at Pepsi Center.
Through Tuesday’s games, the Canucks have the fifth-ranked power play in the league, having scored 10 goals on 42 chances (23.8%). Even further, Vancouver owns the NHL’s second-ranked road power-play percentage, with goals on six of its 21 opportunities (28.6%) in five road games.
The Avs allowed one power-play goal to the Canucks in three opportunities during the first meeting between the clubs this season – a 4-3 Vancouver victory on Oct. 26 – while being held scoreless on two chances of their own.
“It’s always either you win on special teams or it’s a one or two-goal game where it’s always five-on-five and special teams have no effect,” said Avalanche assistant captain Paul Stastny
. “I think the last time we played them there weren’t too many power plays, but usually there are.”
On the other end of the ice, Vancouver actually owns the No. 10 ranked penalty-killing unit in the league overall, but the club has been significantly better at home (95.6% - second in the league) than on the road (73.7% - 28th in the NHL).
The Avalanche, which has the sixth-best home power-play percentage in the league (26.3%) will be looking to capitalize on that front.
“Whether you score a big goal or get a big kill it can be the difference,” added Stastny. “Not just with Vancouver, but with any team. Division games always seem to be tighter, so when you have an advantage you have to capitalize on it.”
Having just played the Canucks 10 days ago, the Avalanche should have a pretty good idea of what to expect on Thursday.
“We had a great game against them in Van. They won in overtime, but this is a division game so you definitely know it’s going to be a good checking game,” said forward Cody McLeod
. “They’re a physical bunch and they’re coming off a big win in Edmonton last night. I just expect a hard game, and it’s going to be kind of like a playoff game. The standings are so tight already that you can’t take anything for granted.”Practice Notes
After practice Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco
said there was “nothing really new” to report on the Avalanche’s five injured players: Craig Anderson (knee), Kyle Cumiskey (head), Adam Foote (head), David Koci (jaw) and Peter Mueller
(head)…Sacco did mention that Foote has yet to skate since suffering a concussion on Oct. 21 against San Jose…Colorado currently has 12 healthy forwards and six healthy defenseman on its roster, leading Sacco to say that a decision would be made later today on whether Colorado would recall any players from the Lake Erie Monsters in advance of Thursday’s contest.