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Avalanche look to stay perfect against Red Wings

by John Kreiser /

RED WINGS (5-2-0) at AVALANCHE (6-0-0)


Season series: The Detroit Red Wings swept all three games from the Colorado Avalanche last season, when both were members of the Western Conference. The Red Wings' move to the East means the teams will meet only twice this season; they won't see each other again until Colorado visits Joe Louis Arena on March 6.

Big story: The Avalanche will try to stay perfect while the Red Wings play the first of a quick two-game trip. Adding a little spice to the game is the fact that Patrick Roy will be facing the Red Wings for the first time since taking over as coach of the Avalanche during the summer -- and will be trying to break the NHL record for most wins without a loss at the start of a coaching career. The Red Wings and Avalanche were heated rivals during Roy's tenure as a player in Denver.

Team Scope:

Red Wings: The Detroit-Colorado rivalry isn't what it used to be in the days when Roy was in goal for the Avalanche rather than behind the bench. But Detroit coach Mike Babcock, who was running the Anaheim Ducks during Roy's last season as a player, is impressed with his fast start as an NHL bench boss.

"I know nothing about him as a coach, I just know he was an elite, elite goaltender, very competitive guy," Babcock said after practice Wednesday. "Obviously [he] went back and learned to coach by being in major juniors.

“He’s already got the 20 years of pro [experience], and he knows the nuances and all that. And when you coach good players you get to be a better coach."

Detroit is coming off back-to-back one-goal wins against the Boston Bruins and Columbus Blue Jackets this week. With starting goaltender Jimmy Howard out with a hand injury, Jonas Gustavsson stepped up by stopping 64 of the 67 shots he faced.

If he plays Thursday, Gustavsson knows he'll have to be at the top of his game to cool off the Avalanche.

“It’s always tough to play a team that’s on a roll," Gustavsson told “We’ve got a lot of confidence. It’s going to be a good test for us. So far guys have to feel pretty good about what we’ve been doing."

Avalanche: Semyon Varlamov may never be as good as Roy, but he's been plenty good enough this season for Colorado. Varlamov has been in goal for five of Colorado's six victories and made 39 saves Tuesday night in a 3-2 victory against the Dallas Stars

"I guess goaltending is crucial in this League," Roy said with a grin.

Roy said he's not concerned about the opportunity to make history by winning his first seven games as an NHL coach.

“It's not something that I’m looking at, to be honest with you,” Roy said. “I certainly appreciate more the way our guys played [against Dallas] then appreciate me breaking a record or something like this. I’m not really excited about that record, to be honest with you. I’m excited about looking at the way the team has been playing, how hard the team has been working.

“I don’t care about the 7-0. … We have to take care of things that we control, and what we control is how we’re going to play the game. Most importantly, the commitment that we’re making to focus and also to hard work is probably what puts us where we are right now."

Who's hot: Detroit's Daniel Alfredsson has five points in the Red Wings' three-game winning streak. … Varlamov is 5-0-0 with a 1.20 goals-against average and .965 save percentage. He's faced 41 shots in each of his past two starts.

Injury report: Detroit lists Howard (bruised left hand) as questionable. Forward Patrick Eaves (ankle) is on long-term injured reserve. … The Avalanche report no injuries.

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