|The Colorado Avalanche could best be classified as a team that is “hanging around” as the regular season reaches its crescendo. Head coach Joe Sacco’s club started with a flurry and won its first six road games of the year, then hit a mid-season lull and fell out of playoff contention, but is currently right in the thick of the race with 21 games to be played. |
Entering tonight’s game vs. the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena, the Avalanche sit just two points back of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference (currently occupied by the slumping Los Angeles Kings, who lost to Colorado on Wednesday night). More importantly, they are only five points behind the San Jose Sharks for first place in the Pacific Division – a position that presently holds the third seed overall in the conference. It’s safe to say the next few days are sink-or-swim time for the Avalanche, as GM Greg Sherman decides how he is going to shape his club before the NHL trade deadline arrives on Monday.
Sherman did make a move this week, acquiring Steve Downie from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for defenseman Kyle Quincey – a trade that eventually became a three-way deal involving the Detroit Red Wings. Downie brings a speedy and physical element to the Avalanche top-six forwards and is known for toeing the line as an agitator, a quality that a contending team can’t get enough of as crucial games become even more rambunctious.
The new addition should blend well with Colorado’s youthful mix at forward, and the return of Matt Duchene from injury has provided a jolt to their attack. Rookie standout Gabriel Landeskog has four points in his last three games, and the Avalanche will need him for this weekend’s back-to-back games starting tonight in Columbus. Colorado also plays tomorrow night at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
In goal, the Avalanche have been buoyed by the acquisition of Semyon Varlamov in the offseason, and he’s played much better since the All-Star break. He has wins in two of the last three games, taking the reins from injured backup J.S. Giguere, who had previously been carrying the mail between the pipes.
| || || |
|Nash (19) ||Stastny (16) |
|Prospal (28) ||O'Reilly (30) |
|Nash (42) ||O'Reilly (45) |
|Dorsett (177) ||McLeod (136) |
|MacKenzie (+3) ||Landeskog (+15) |
|Sanford (10-13-4) |
|Varlamov (23-14-6) |
|Sanford (2.52) ||Giguere (2.13) |
|Sanford (.915) ||Giguere (.923) || |
|• Columbus has made two major roster moves this week. On Wednesday the club acquired a 2012 second round pick and a conditional 2013 fifth round pick from Phoenix in exchange for Antoine Vermette. Yesterday the club acquired D Jack Johnson and a first round pick in either the 2012 or 2013 Entry Draft from Los Angeles in exchange for Jeff Carter. |
• LW R.J. Umberger registered a "Gordie Howe Hat Trick" in the first period Tuesday against San Jose. He snapped a four-game goalless skid with his 10th of the season, as he last scored Feb. 11 at Minnesota. He added an assist on a Rick Nash goal and has points in back-to-back games. He received a five-minute fighting major at 17:44 of the first period against the Sharks to cap the “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” of a goal, assist and fight.
• LW Rick Nash has points in seven of nine games after scoring his 20th goal of the season Tuesday vs. San Jose. It marks the eighth consecutive season he has hit the 20-goal mark. He added an assist against the Sharks for his second multi-point game in the last six games after being held to one the previous 17 games. He has 3-6-9 during that stretch, while collecting 7-8-15 the last 21 games and 16-14-30 the last 42 games.
• Tonight marks the second of four meetings overall and second of two meetings at Nationwide Arena this season between the Blue Jackets and Avalanche. Columbus is 9-28-4 all-time against Colorado, including a 6-13-2 mark at Nationwide Arena.