RED WINGS (3-3-2) at AVALANCHE (7-1-2)
-- Despite Colorado's struggles last year, the traditional rivalry with the Red Wings was alive and well, the Avs taking three of four in the season series. There's been one meeting between the two teams so far this season, a 4-3 shootout win for the Avs at the Joe Louis Arena last Saturday, in which the Avs erased a two-goal deficit and took their fourth straight win at the time, making it four of the last five head-to-head.
-- Colorado's amazing start continues to be one the top stories League-wide. They did hit a setback in Minnesota, where the Wild took advantage of a sluggish Avalanche team in the early going and pulled out a 3-2 shootout win, but responded with a 5-4 win over Carolina at home Friday night. The Wings will be playing the second of an important five-game road swing, the first of which was nothing to write home about, a 3-2 overtime loss in Phoenix.
-- The Colorado and Phoenix losses mark two in a row where the Wings gave up a lead in the final minutes of regulation. Cody McLeod
did it for the Avs with 2:22 left to force overtime and an eventual shootout win and Petr Prucha followed suit with 2:40 left for the 'Yotes, which gave Adrian Aucoin the opportunity to win it in OT.
"I just felt it was one of those games that you have everything going your way, you should bury them," coach Mike Babcock told examiner.com. "We didn't bury them, we let them stay in the game, and instead of putting a knife in them, and it came back to haunt us. It's a point that we let get away that we should never let it at home."
"It's just so frustrating because we've played pretty good the last couple of games and haven't been rewarded for it," goaltender Chris Osgood told the Detroit News. "Everybody feels real good. It's just one of those times in the season where we aren't getting any breaks."
The underlying reason for the slow start, however, is the fact that the Red Wings are a team in transition. Most notably for a team with famously low turnover, they are playing three rookies -- Ville Leino, Justin Abdelkader
and Jimmy Howard
-- for the first time since 2002-03 when Henrik Zetterberg
, Jesse Wallin and Dmitri Bykov first broke in. A total of nine players currently on the roster were not in Detroit one year ago.
-- Mostly good news coming out of a 4-1-2 road trip, at seven games the longest since the franchise relocated to Denver in 1995, which vaulted the Avs not only into the top spot in their division, but first place in the Western Conference as well.
Craig Anderson has been piling up the honors the past few weeks and setting some records. Coming into Saturday's action, only he, Ray Emery and Martin Brodeur have played every minute of his team's schedule in nets, and he tied a franchise record for consecutive starts (nine) to start a season, set by Mario Gosselin of the 1987-88 Quebec Nordiques. That record was broken inadvertently Friday night as Anderson had to jump back in the crease after Peter Budaj was scratched with the flu.
-- The stories of rookie phenoms Ryan O'Reilly
and Matt Duchene
are well-documented by now, but you can add at least one more name to the Avs' feel-good story. McLeod fell short of a Gordie Howe hat trick against the Wings last week. He got the goal and the requisite fight with Brad May, but had to settle not for an assist, but a second goal which was the one that forced overtime. Unfortunately, McLeod took a stick to the eye in the Minnesota game, sat out Friday night against Carolina and will do so Saturday as well.
-- John-Michael Liles (shoulder) continues to practice but has not yet cracked the lineup, Tom Preissing (knee) is skating but not practicing yet. Pavel Datsyuk
(upper body) played in the Phoenix game and recorded two assists.
-- While the Red Wings continue to look for their own identity on the ice, the Avalanche seem to have everything figured out. That could change, the sooner for the Red Wings the better.
-- Matt Mankewich, NHL.com