The Ducks face the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference semifinals beginning tonight at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim.
The Avs are coming off of an impressive 3-1 quarterfinal series win over the West’s second-seeded Dallas Stars. Colorado won three overtime contests in the series, including a Game 5 series clincher with a 50-save performance by Avalanche netminder Jose Theodore.
Offensively, the Avs’ top line of Milan Hedjuk, Joe Sakic and Andrew Brunette accounted for eight goals and 13 assists in their first-round series. On their blue line, no one in the Colorado line-up logs more ice time than veteran defenseman Rob Blake, who had an average TOI of 28:17 in the first round.
Below is a look at the who’s who of the Avalanche line-up, player by player, for this conference semifinal series.
#60 Jose Theodore – The 29-year-old was acquired by Colorado at the trade deadline from the Montreal Canadiens for David Aebischer. In the first round against Dallas, Theodore recorded a 2.64 goals against and a .910 save percentage. Theodore, known primarily as a positional butterfly-style netminder, was 18-18-6 with Montreal and Colorado this regular season and recorded a 3.41 goals against and .882 save percentage. He suffered a heel injury on February 18th and was injured at the time of the trade. Theodore didn’t start his first game with the Avs until April 9th.
#31 Peter Budaj – Budaj played 34 games in the regular season with Colorado. The 23-year-old Slovak was a 2nd-round draft pick of the Avs in 2001 (63rd overall). The rookie goaltender got the bulk of the work after the Aebischer trade, while Theodore recovered from his injury. Budaj was a member of the 2006 Slovakian Olympic team. This regular season he was 14-10-6 with a 2.86 GAA and a .900 SV%.
#4 Rob Blake – The Avs’ top blue liner at 36 years old, Blake had a resurgence after a shaky first half of 2005-2006. The Simcoe, Ontario native was a -14 on January 1st but recovered to finish the season +2. At 6’ 4”, 225 pounds, Blake still uses his imposing size to stop opposing forwards and possesses a hard shot that has netted him 200 career NHL goals. In the first round of the playoffs, Blake was a +4 with two goals and an assist. The 15-year NHL veteran leads the Avs in average TOI in the playoffs with 28:17.
# 26 John-Michael Liles – This 25-year-old native of Zionsville, Indiana played his college hockey at Michigan State. At 5’10”, 185 pounds, Liles has a knack for offense. In 2005-2006, he was seventh on the team in scoring with 49 points (14-35=49). In his first five games of the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Liles has a goal and an assist.
#5 Brett Clark – Clark had two goals and an assist in the Avs’ first-round series. In his sixth NHL season, the 6’ 1”, 195 pound Clark moves the puck very well from his own end. In 80 games this season, Clark finished a +3 with 9 goals and 27 assists. His shorthanded goal in the second game of round one versus Dallas with 2:04 remaining tied the game and forced overtime. The Avs eventually won on a Joe Sakic goal. Clark averaged 24:11 of ice time in the quarterfinal round.
#71 Patrice Brisebois - A 14-year NHL veteran, Brisebois spent his entire career with the Montreal Canadiens before joining the Avs as a free agent in August of 2005. A smooth skater, Brisebois gives the Avs another offensive weapon from the blue line. This season, the Montreal native had 10 goals and 28 assists. In the first round against Dallas, Brisebois was even with an assist in five games.
#3 Karlis Skrastins – A 31-year-old native of Riga, Latvia, Skrastins has played six NHL seasons with Nashville and Colorado. Skrastins holds the NHL’s current iron-man streak with 433 consecutive games played. The Avs defenseman uses his 6’1”, 215-pound frame to move bodies away from the net and block shots. Skrastins had an assist in the first round and finished +2.
#34 Kurt Sauer – A stay-at-home defenseman out of St. Cloud, Minnesota, Sauer played the previous two seasons with the Ducks. Originally an Avs draft pick (3rd round, 88 overall) in 2000, Sauer signed with the Ducks as a free agent in June of 2002. The 25-year-old was dealt back to Colorado in February of 2004 for Martin Skoula and a fourth-round pick in 2005. Sauer averaged 8:18 of ice time in the five games in the first round.
#19 Joe Sakic – C – Year in and year out, the Avalanche captain has been one of the best centers in the game. Known for his smooth skating and intimidating wrist shot, the 16-year NHL veteran has established a Hall of Fame career. A native of Burnaby, B.C., Sakic was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques in 1987 and after the team’s relocation to Colorado, he led the Avalanche to Stanley Cup championships in 1995 and 2001. Sakic tallied three goals and four assists in five games in the first round.
#23 Milan Hejduk – RW – With a goal-scorers touch, Hejduk is a shifty player who has the ability to find open ice in the offensive zone, which enables him to unleash his quick shot on goaltenders. Hejduk has a wealth of playoff experience and earned a Cup with Colorado in 2001. The Avs winger is off to a quick start this playoff season, tallying two goals and five assists in five games against Dallas.
#15 Andrew Brunette – LW – Signed in the off-season as an unrestricted free agent, Brunette has been a key offensive pickup for the Avalanche. Making up for a lack of speed, Brunette knows the ice well and is creative with the puck. Brunette had a big series against Dallas in the first round, gathering seven points on three goals and four assists in five games. This season he tallied 24 goals and 39 assists in playing all 82 games.
#18 Alex Tanguay – LW – Drafted by the Avalanche in 1998 (1st round, 12 overall), Tanguay covers the ice well with blazing speed. In his fifth season, he is part of the offensive core of the Avalanche. The 26-year-old had 29 goals and 49 assists in 2005-2006. In the first round of the playoffs, Tanguay had two goals and two assists against Dallas.
#8 Wojtek Wolski – LW – Born in Poland, Wolski is a native of Mississauga, Ontario. The 20-year-old played this season for the Brampton Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League, where he was named the OHL’s Most Outstanding Player. At Brampton this season, Wolski had 25 goals and 32 assists in 64 games. The 6’ 3”, 200-pound winger also played nine games at the beginning of this season for Colorado, where he earned two goals and four assists. Wolski has a goal and three assists in the NHL playoffs thus far.
#38 Jim Dowd – C – Dowd came over from Chicago at the trade deadline this season in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick in 2006. The 37-year-old New Jersey native is known as a solid checking line center. A 1987 draft pick of the New Jersey Devils (8th round, 149 overall), Dowd won a Stanley Cup with the Devils in 1994-1995. In 78 games this season with the Avs and Blackhawks, Dowd had five goals and 13 assists and was a -11 on the season.
#24 Antti Laaksonen – LW – Drafted by the Boston Bruins (8th round, 191 overall) in 1997, Laaksonen is known as a checking line winger with good speed and an efficient penalty killer. After playing four years with the Minnesota Wild, Laaksonen signed with the Avs as a free agent before the locked-out 2004-2005 season. This season with Colorado, the 32-year-old Finn had 16 goals and 18 assists in 81 games. In the first round of the playoffs, Laaksonen averaged 15:15 of ice time and recorded two assists.
#87 Pierre Turgeon – C – A 17-year NHL veteran, the 36-year-old Turgeon has spent his career as great set-up man who can also score. Turgeon has tallied 511 career NHL goals and 809 assists. A veteran of six NHL teams, Turgeon signed as a free agent with Colorado before this season. In 61 games this season, the Quebec native had 16 goals and 30 assists. Averaging 10:08 of ice time in the first round, Turgeon had two assists in four games played.
#14 Ian Laperriere – RW – Laperriere plays the role of agitator for this Colorado team. The 32-year-old Montreal native played with the Los Angeles Kings for eight full seasons before signing with the Avs as a free agent in 2004. This season, Laperriere had a career-high 21 goals and 24 assists in 82 games. Laperriere averaged 12:29 of ice in round one with an assist.
#53 Brett McLean – C – McLean was drafted by Dallas in 1997 (9th round, 242 overall) and has two NHL seasons to his credit. The Comox, B.C. native played in the minors until the 2003-2004 season when he became a regular NHLer with the Chicago Blackhawks. McLean is known as a smart player without a lot of size at 5’ 11”, 194 pounds. In five first-round games, McLean had one assist.
#13 Dan Hinote – RW – A checking forward who is known as an effective forechecker, Hinote was a member of the 2001 Stanley Cup champion Avalanche. In 73 games this season, the 29-year-old had five goals and eight assists. Hinote played his college hockey at Army. In the first round, he had an assist in five games for the Avs.
#12 Brad Richardson – C – Out of Belleville, Ontario, Richardson split time this season with the Avs and Lowell of the American Hockey League. The 5’11”, 178-pound forward is adept at both ends of the rink and had three goals and 10 assists in 41 games with Colorado. Richardson also played all five games in the first round of the playoffs and tallied a goal.
#10 Brad May – LW - May was sidelined at the end of the regular season and for the first four games of the playoffs. The 34-year-old Toronto native made his playoff debut this season in Colorado’s Game 5 clincher against Dallas. May is a physical player who provides more veteran leadership for this Avalanche team. During the regular season, he had three goals and three assists in 54 games.
#22 Steve Konowalchuk – LW - Konowalchuk has been out of the Colorado lineup since November 27th with a wrist injury. The 13-year NHL veteran was cleared to play for this series and will provide a spark to the Avs. Konowalchuk is a solid penalty killer who can play efficiently at either end of the ice. In his last full season before the lockout, he had 19 goals and 20 assists in 76 games.
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