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Wolski Named NHL's First Star of the Week

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
Avalanche forward Wojtek Wolski was named the NHL's First Star of the Week on Monday after leading all NHL scorers last week with six points (4g,2a), including two game-winning goals, as the Avalanche went 3-0-0 and moved into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Wolski tallied both Colorado goals in a 2-1 victory over the Nashville Predators Jan. 6, notched the game-winning goal and added an assist in a 2-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks Jan. 8 and recorded two points (1g/1a) in a 5-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins Jan. 10. Playing in his third full NHL season, Wolski ranks fourth on the Avalanche in scoring with 25 points (11g/14a) in 41 games. He also leads all NHL players in shootout goals (six) and shootout scoring percentage (six goals in seven attempts, 85.7%).
“I didn’t even know about it until this morning, so it doesn’t mean that much because I haven’t really taken it in yet,” said Wolski of the honor. “We won three games, but any awards are great too.”

Anaheim Ducks right wing Bobby Ryan and Florida Panthers center Gregory Campbell were named the week’s Second and Third Stars, respectively, for the time period ending Jan. 11.

By all indications, Wolski’s move from left wing to center has been a rousing success. Fresh off his latest honor, Wolski will attempt to set a career-high goal streak on Tuesday when the Avalanche faces the Columbus Blue Jackets in Ohio.

The Zabrze, Poland, native previously recorded a three-game goal streak from Dec. 23-29, 2006 (during which he also totaled four goals), but has never scored in four straight contests.

However, he gives much of the credit for the smooth transition to linemates Ryan Smyth and Milan Hejduk.

“It’s a great opportunity to play with Ryan and Milan,” said Wolski. “They’ve got so much skill and bring so much offense to the game that it’s hard not to do well when you’re with them. I’m happy to be on that line and be able to contribute.”

While the focus has been on Wolski’s success since his switch to center, Avalanche head coach Tony Granato actually believes the move has come at a perfect time. Beginning his career on the left wing allowed Wolski to see the game in simpler terms and make the conversion to playing at the NHL level easier.

“When he came into the organization, the spot for him to play and develop was left wing. I think we did it right there,” said Granato. “Playing behind Paul (Stastny) and Joe (Sakic) at center, he wouldn’t see the minutes he needed to develop. I think it helped him a lot. I think it’s easier to come into our league as a winger. You have fewer responsibilities defensively and in faceoffs. He wouldn’t have received the minutes playing center, and it would have been tougher.”

Riding the Hot (Glove) Hand
Netminder Andrew Raycroft will make his fourth consecutive start on Tuesday against Columbus. The goaltender has won his last seven starts overall and has posted a 9-1-0 record with a 2.57 goals-against average in 11 appearances this season.

The 28-year-old is the first Avs’ goaltender to win seven consecutive games since David Aebischer from Jan. 3-17, 2006.

“He’s played well. It’s like anything else, if you get a little rhythm and play a little bit more, you can succeed,” said Granato.

Lappy, Foote Out Versus Columbus
Veterans Adam Foote (triceps), and Ian Laperriere (back) will not play on Tuesday against the Blue Jackets.

Foote has been skating recently, and Granato said the earliest he could possibly return would be Friday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.

Laperriere did not skate today, and the team is taking a careful approach with his rehabilitation.

“We’re just being cautious and we don’t want to have a setback,” said Granato. “He’s progressing slowly. He won’t be on the trip, so I don’t think the Edmonton game is realistic because he won’t have a full practice.”
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