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Northwest: 'New' Avalanche must adapt quickly

by Roger Phillips

The Avalanche must believe Peter Forsberg is healthy enough to contribute or they wouldn't have added him.
The Colorado Avalanche have a history of making big splashes at the trade deadline, and this year was no different.

The biggest move, of course, wasn't a trade at all. Rather, it was the signing for the rest of the season of center Peter Forsberg. Additionally, the Avalanche picked up defenseman Adam Foote from Columbus for draft picks, and swapped defensemen with Florida, picking up Ruslan Salei for Karlis Skrastins.

It can be tough for teams to adapt after adding so many big pieces late in a season. But give the Avalanche credit; Forsberg and Foote, of course, had their best years with Colorado earlier in their careers, so there shouldn't be much adjustment for either.

The bigger question is Forsberg's health. Clearly, the Avalanche must believe he is healthy enough to contribute or they wouldn't have added him. But his foot problems have lingered for so long there will be questions.

On defense, the Avalanche just got a whole lot tougher with the additions of Foote and Salei. And offensively, all the pieces are back now that Joe Sakic, Ryan Smyth and Paul Stastny have returned from their injuries and illness.

Make no mistake, the deadline moves by Colorado make it clear that the Avalanche intend not only to make the playoffs, but to compete for the Stanley Cup.

The problem is that the Avalanche still have to make the playoffs. They moved into the eighth and final spot Wednesday night with a 3-2 shootout win over Vancouver, but still are very much in the midst of a Western Conference logjam.

The Avalanche were the only Northwest Division team to make major moves. In fact, the province of Alberta sat this trade deadline out.

The Flames, inconsistent as they've been, have shown signs recently of putting things together and stood pat. The Oilers, en route to missing the playoffs for the second-straight year, also did nothing.

The Wild and Canucks made moves that were relatively minor, especially in light of the Avalanche's busy day.

Minnesota has been thin at center, but the Wild's only move was to pick up controversial enforcer Chris Simon for a draft choice. Simon's most noteworthy accomplishment in the past year has been maintaining a job in the NHL despite serving two huge suspensions for gross infractions.

The Canucks swapped wingers named Matt, getting Matt Pettinger from the Capitals for Matt Cooke. Pettinger will add some needed offensive depth, but the Canucks still will have to probably rely too heavily on the play of goalie Roberto Luongo.

The Avalanche are the team to watch. It will be fascinating to see whether they rise or fall.

Who's hot -- The Flames, who are the division's most tantalizing team, showed signs of finally getting their act together with a 3-2 win at Dallas followed by a 1-0 home victory over Detroit. Alex Tanguay scored twice in the Feb. 20 victory over the Stars. Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 38 shots, and Tanguay scored the only goal against the Red Wings on Feb. 22. … Kiprusoff isn't the only Northwest goalie heating up. Roberto Luongo made 49 saves in a 3-2 shootout win at Nashville on Feb. 20. Rookie Mason Raymond had a goal and an assist during the game, plus the shootout winner. … Luongo made 28 more saves on Feb. 23 against the Red Wings. Ryan Kesler scored twice in the third period as the Canucks broke open a tight game and went on to record a 4-1 victory. … Kiprusoff outdueled the Wild's Niklas Backstrom as the Flames won at Minnesota, 2-1, on Feb. 24. The Flames were outshot, 39-16, in the game. … The Oilers are in spoiler mode, rallying from a 2-0 deficit to knock off the Avalanche, 3-2, on Feb. 24 behind 27 saves by Mathieu Garon. … Paul Stastny showed he's recovered from his recent medical issues when he scored the overtime goal in a vital 3-2 overtime win at Calgary on Feb. 26. … Defenseman Tom Gilbert had three assists as the Oilers beat the Red Wings, 4-3, in a shootout on Feb. 26. Garon stopped 40 shots in regulation and overtime, and did not allow a goal in three attempts by Detroit in the shootout.

Shootout summary -- When in doubt, go to the shootout.

The Avalanche, battered by injuries, are fighting to stay in the playoff hunt. They forced consecutive tough road games to shootouts on Feb. 20 and Feb. 22 and came away with mixed results. The Canucks, likewise trying to remain viable, picked up a shootout win on Feb. 21 over Nashville. And the Oilers picked up their league-best 13th shootout win, 4-3, over Detroit on Feb. 26.


In a 3-2 loss to the Ducks, Avalanche goalie Peter Budaj limited Anaheim to one goal in three shots. But Wojtek Wolski, Marek Svatos and Milan Hejduk were unable to dent Jean-Sebastian Giguere. A 3-2 victory over the Coyotes two nights later, however, was settled by a 12-round marathon shootout in which the Avalanche ultimately prevailed. Tyler Arnason, John-Michael Liles and Cody McLeod beat Coyotes goalie Mikael Tellqvist. Meanwhile, Jose Theodore stopped 10 of 12 shots.

The Canucks' shootout win was short and sweet. Mason Raymond beat Predators goalie Chris Mason, and the three Nashville shooters were unsuccessful against Roberto Luongo.

Mathieu Garon, the NHL's best shootout goalie, did not allow a Red Wings goal in three attempts on Feb. 26 as the Oilers improved to 13-3 this season in the tiebreaker. Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky were unsuccessful for the Oilers, but Robert Nilsson beat Chris Osgood for the victory.

Northwest goaltender shootout rankings:

    W    L  ShotsAg GA %
Mathieu Garon, Oilers 9 0 29 2 .931
Dwayne Roloson, Oilers 4 3 30 6 .800
Jose Theodore, Avalanche 3 1 22 5 .773
Roberto Luongo, Canucks 6 7 51 13 .745
Miikka Kiprusoff, Flames 3 3 17 6 .647

Top 5 Northwest division shootout artists (min. 3 attempts):

  Goals Attempts %
Kristian Huselius, Flames 4 5 80.0
Shawn Horcoff, Oilers 5 7 71.4
Trevor Linden, Canucks 5 9 55.6
Ales Hemsky, Oilers 5 14 35.7
Sam Gagner, Oilers 5 15 33.3

Top 5 Northwest division shootout challenged by percentage (min. 3 attempts):

  Goals Attempts %
Brendan Morrison, Canucks 0 3 0
Marty Reasoner, Oilers 0 3 0
Dion Phaneuf, Flames 0 3 0
Ryan Kesler, Canucks 1 9 11.1
Taylor Pyatt, Canucks 1 8 12.5

Twelfth weekly Northwest shootout standings:

    W    L    PTS 
Oilers 13 3 26
Canucks 6 8 12
Avalanche 4 3 8
Flames 3 3 6
Wild 3 3 6

Rumor Mill -- Here are some of the rumors that didn't come true as the deadline arrived. If we wanted to compile an entire list, it might read like War and Peace. It's good to remember that for every trade that occurred Tuesday, there was at least one rumor from recent months that did not come to pass. … The Avalanche did not get defenseman Rob Blake from the Kings. They also did not trade Andrew Brunette or John-Michael Liles. … The Wild did not sign Peter Forsberg, and neither did the Canucks. … The Flames did not trade Alex Tanguay, Kristian Huselius or Stephane Yelle, and did not acquire Olli Jokinen from Florida, Mats Sundin from Toronto or Michael Ryder from Montreal. … Sundin did not join fellow Swede Markus Naslund in Vancouver. … The Wild did not acquire Marian Hossa from Minnesota and neither did the Canucks or Avalanche. … The Oilers did not trade goalie Dwayne Roloson, defenseman Joni Pitkanen, forwards Geoff Sanderson or Jarret Stoll, or defenseman Steve Staios. … The Canucks did not trade for Vinny Prospal.

The week ahead -- It's getting late, and no one is assured of anything in the division (with the exception of the Oilers, who are all but certain to miss the playoffs). ... The Avalanche have an opportunity to pick up key points at home. They start a four-game home stand Saturday against the Kings, then have a crucial visit by the Canucks on Tuesday. … The Canucks are getting healthier at the right time and have a hectic week. They're home Friday against Columbus, followed by games at Chicago on Sunday and the aforementioned key game in Denver on Tuesday. … The Wild complete a three-game Southeast swing Friday at Florida. They return home to face the Kings on Sunday and the Blackhawks on Tuesday. … The Flames have a challenging weekend, visiting Anaheim on Friday and Phoenix the following night. They start a three-game home stand Tuesday against Columbus. … The Oilers are playing out the string, and have two games against teams in a similar situation. The Oilers host the Kings on Thursday. They visit Columbus, which is teetering on playoff irrelevancy, on Sunday. The Oilers host a Predators team still fighting for a playoff berth on Tuesday.


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