CALGARY, AB -- After struggling to the worst record in the Western Conference a year ago, the Colorado Avalanche have higher expectations in 2013-14.
Their biggest reason for optimism doesn’t come via trade or free agency, though. Instead, the addition of hall-of-fame goaltender and former Avalanche netminder Patrick Roy behind the bench and first overall pick Nathan MacKinnon at centre bodes for a more successful season in Colorado.
Simply put, the formula under Roy has worked thus far. After 14 games with Roy behind the bench, Colorado is one of the league’s biggest surprises at 12-2-0. They currently sit a top the Central Division and their plus-21 goal differential is second-best in the National Hockey League.
Last Season: 16-25-7, 39 points (15th in West)
Notable Additions: C Nathan MacKinnon, LW Alex Tanguay, D Cory Sarich, D Andre Benoit, D Nick Holden, D Nate Guenin
Notable Subtractions: RW Milan Hejduk, RW David Jones, RW Chuck Kobasew, RW Aaron Palushaj, D Shane O'Brien, D Greg Zanon
Flames Season Series Record: 0-0-0
Few have been as integral to Colorado’s hot start as Matt Duchene, who leads the Avalanche in goals (10), assists (7) and points (17) through the club’s first 14 games. He’s been drumming up a lot of Olympic attention early in the season and shows no signs of slowing down. The 22-year-old has four goals and eight points in his past five games heading into Friday’s contest against the Flames.
Acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Steve Downie last week, Talbot is still searching for his first point as a member of the Avalanche. Dating back to his time with the Flyers, the 29-year-old is pointless in his past four games. In all, Talbot has just two points -- a goal and an assist -- in 14 games this season.
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
The first overall pick from the 2013 NHL Draft has made the professional jump and has looked good doing so. In 14 games to start his career, the 18-year-old MacKinnon has two goals and nine points and sits fifth in rookie scoring. The forward has jumped between playing the wing and centre this season. Calgary will see him down the middle on Friday.
Though Landeskog, the youngest captain in NHL history, saw his three-game point-scoring streak snapped on Wednesday against the Nashville Predators, the 20-year-old remains one of the most productive members of the Avalanche this season. Landeskog, selected 2nd overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, has five goals and 11 points in 13 games this season.
Expected to make his fifth start of the season, Giguere has been flawless for Colorado this season. The 36-year-old is 4-0-0 this year with an NHL-leading two shutouts. In fact, Giguere has allowed just three goals this season, sporting an 0.75 goals against average and .977 save percentage.