The Avalanche host the Blackhawks this evening. Tonight's broadcast is by Vs – John Forslund (never heard of him) and Eddie Olczyk.
For the Avs, TJ Hensick is expected to play with Andrew Brunette and Milan Hejduk (a line we saw in the later stages of the Minnesota game). He's coming off of a big performance in the AHL All-Star game and I'll be curious to see how he performs tonight. I'll also be watching Brad Richardson who looks to be on the wing with Ben Guite and Ian Laperierre.
Jose Theodore gets the start again. He was described in the Vs pregame as the "backbone" of the team. Okay, then. He'll face Nikolai Khabibulin for the Hawks.
20:00 That 4th line of Guite, Richardson and Lappy mentioned above starts the game, against the Havlat line for the Hawks.
19:10 Richardson and Guite have already gone off, but Lappy was still deep in the Chicago zone. He gets a solid hit on someone behind the net and then has an opportunity to run Burish into boards in front of the Chicago bench. Great first shift.
19:01 Ruttuu gets a big hit on Leopold behind the Colorado net. That's 4 or 5 solid checks in the first minute of play.
18:50 Meanwhile, the first line is now out – Hensick, Brunette and Hejduk.
18:19 They make way for the Arnason line. Svatos gets a one-timer opportunity on a feed from behind the net.
17:35 With Hensick moving up, it means we get a return of the McLinka line. I dig this line.
15:48 Lappy steals the puck. He's had his Wheaties today, apparently.
15:18 Brett Clark makes a nifty little play, circling behind the Chicago net and then, with Ruuttu on his back, made a one-handed pass to Richardson in front of the net. Richardson can't quite get a solid shot off.
15:16 Brief stoppage in play due to a defective ref's whistle.
14:52 We get the obligatory "IR is filled with names that start with 's' joke". I wouldn't mind seeing congress address at some point; I really shouldn't have to hear that joke every night. Once we get that fixed, we can work on the Quenneville coaching and playing 400+ games thing.
11:47 This 4th line looks terrific tonight. This is their 3rd or 4th shift of the night, and each one has been a quality shift.
11:23 The puck gets through Khabibulin's legs and inches tantalizingly close to the goal line, but it doesn't go over.
10:47 Milan Hejduk scores. Great give and go with Hensick to set up a quick wrist shot from Hejduk along the left wing. Terrific play from both players there.
10:15 And Q goes right back to the 4th line, and they get good pressure on yet another shift (and remember, they are playing against the Havlat line, so the more we're in their zone, the less Havlat will be in ours).
8:42 Wow. Let's start this amazing play from the beginning. Finger starts with the puck standing still behind Theodore. Svatos comes back to be a decoy, while Finger outlets to Liles to his right. Liles immediately fires it up to center ice, where Arnason tips it forward to Wolski at the Chicago blueline. Wolski walks into the zone, dekes the hell out of Wisnieski trying to make a hit. By now, Arnason has entered the zone and Wolski pushes it to him. Arnason makes a drop pass towards Svatos. It's not the sharpest of passes, and Burish gets a stick on it…but not enough, and Svatos is able to poke the puck over the glove of Khabibulin. It was a sneaky little play in that it didn't look like anything was developing at all. Beautiful to watch. Both goals tonight have been "old-school" Avalanche goals. 2-0 Chicago.
6:38 The McLinka line looks good tonight as well. So far, we're looking at 4 solid lines this evening.
4:25 Geez. Lappy interecepts a sloppy pass from Havlat and rifles a puck over the net.
1:31 Richardson scores. This one also started behind our net. It gets outleted to Richardson in the faceoff circle. He carries it for a bit before dishing to Guite on the opposite side of the ice. Guite skates over the blueline, fakes a dump-in shot, and then races into the zone. Hard. He circles the net and finds the stick of Richardson in the middle of 4 white jerseys and Richardson bangs it home. Remember, Richardson passed off the puck well inside our blueline and then beelined to the net. And just to make this clear: Johnny Boychuk doesn't make that play. Scott Parker doesn't make that play. Kyle Cumiskey has the ability to make that play, but probably not the instincts. 3-0 Colorado.
Colorado has a hell of a first period. All 4 lines looked good (I think the top line may have been the weakest of the 4, and they still had a goal). Denis Savard looked like a constipated duck on the bench in the first period, so his team may be in for another tongue lashing. (And hello to Jeff Beck fans using google).
19:01 Our first penalty of the game, as Khabibulin trips Hensick crossing in front of him.
18:54 Tonight's first unit: Clark, Liles, Hejduk, Brunette, Wolski. Hejduk took the draw, in case you're curious.
17:55 Next up – Leopold, Finger, Hensick, Svatos, Arnason.
16:43 Lang scores. Theodore was doing leg stretches or something and isn't even remotely ready for a shot. It was a funky little play, as Wisnieski fans on a big shot from the point. It trickles to Lang who spins around to see Theodore doing…well, I don't really know what he was doing. He was in no position to make a save, though, and Lang scores easily.
14:03 Remember how awesome we looked in the first period? The Avs don't seem to. We're suddenly back on our heels here.
9:50 Great save by Khabibulin on Liles. Liles just can't catch a break.
9:45 Sopel goes off for a high stick on Svatos. 1st unit is…Arnason, Wolski, Hensick, Liles and Clark.
9:06 Hensick makes a poor choice, when his no-look pass just inside the blueline goes right to a Chicago player.
8:31 Next up is Leopold, Finger, Svatos, Hejduk and Brunette. Like the first time, Q is going with 2 centers on one PP and 0 centers on the other. Both units look uninspired, of course.
8:00 And Brunette tells me to shut up by blasting a shot from the slot. The Avs are coming in and Burish knocks down Bruno. Will Burish is looking around to see if he's going to get a penalty, Bruno takes a pass from Hejduk and blasts it past Khabibulin. You don't see Brunette scoring many from there. It seems I've mentioned Burish's name a lot tonight, and not in a good way. 4-1 Colorado.
6:52 Chicago is going on the PP. Lappy for slashing.
5:29 Hlinka out-muscles a Chicago player off the puck to break in shorthanded. He goes in hard to the net (and pays the price, as Duncan Keith decks him after he gets a shot off). Khabby makes the save, and stops the rebound chance by Hejduk and another rebound chance by Clark. Terrific effort by Hlinka.
4:31 Our crummy powerplay is coming back on (yeah, I know they scored the last time out). The same 1st unit is out there (Bruno takes the draw this time).
3:44 Khabibulin stones Hejduk.
3:06 Interestingly, the Avs spent most of this first shift on the PP on front of the net – nothing down low at all. Brunette spent most of the shift between the faceoff circle and the blueline. And, it was maybe our best PP of the night (no goal, though).
1:38 We're making up for having no penalties in the first period. That whistle certainly is working now. Ben Guite off now for hooking. First PK unit: Richardson and Laperriere.
4-1 Colorado after 2. We slopped a bit to start the 2nd, but gained a lot of momentum as the period went on.
20:00 Interesting development: there's been a goaltending change and it's not Savard making the move. Theodore is out with back spasms and Peter Budaj has replaced him. I'm not really sure what to say about this, except that it's the 2nd time I can remember Theo leaving a game due to injury during an intermission.
18:49 I won't lie; while I don't enjoy seeing Theodore get injured, I'm really excited to see Budaj back in net. It just feels so much more normal.
15:38 Bourque is going off for holding. We're going back on the PP. One minor change with this unit – Finger is on the left point instead of Clark. Hejduk takes this draw (and wins). Burish blocks a big point shot from Liles – it's nice to be able to have something positive to say about him.
13:31 5-1. Arnason scores just after Bourque comes out of the box. Liles fires it on net and Arnason is there to bang home the rebound. He fans once, but gets it with the 2nd try.
13:25 They talk to Giguere during one commercial break. Not surprisingly, there's nothing to be learned from the interview.
12:52 I'd really like to see the McLinka line score a goal tonight, which would give all 4 lines a goal. I'm reasonably sure we haven't seen all 4 lines score an even strength goal in a game this year. I'm not 100% sure we've had a goal from 3 lines in a game before tonight.
8:56 Liles goes off for interference when he puts a pick on Patrick Sharp. No reason to take that penalty.
6:04 6-1. Arnason to Wolski back to Arnason over to Svatos. Great passes by Arnason, and he did it while dancing around defenders.
5:45 Cool stat: Svatos is 4th in the NHL in "Goals per 60 Minutes" at 1.92, behind Ovechkin, Kovalchuk and Boyes.
2:40 Ok, let's get Theodore back. Perreault walks in and beats Budaj 5-hole. This game is over and all that, but that's probably the weakest goal Budaj has given up this year. Just awful. The only thing worse than that goal is the look of disgust on Quenneville's face after it happens. I didn't think there'd be anything to temper my enthusiasm for this game…but that sure did. I hate to think that Budaj is going to slip deeper into the doghouse.
:24 Motherfucker. Perreault spins around and fires one under the arm of Budaj. Two terrible goals for Budaj to give up in so many ways.
Well, the game ends on a bit of a sour note, but, overall, it was a terrific win for the Avs.