We may not be in must-win territory tonight, but this is, in fact, a key early season test for the Colorado Avalanche. Both the Avalanche and Canucks have 8 points and the Avs are in danger of losing three in a row and need to pace with Vancouver and Calgary (Thursday's opponent).
Last year, the Avalanche shut out Vancouver 3-0 in the 2nd game on the season and won in in the shootout in game 79 to clinch a playoff berth. In between, though, was a whole lot of struggling with the Canucks winning the other 4 games by a convincing 22-8 margin.
Craig Anderson will take a break tonight, as Joe Sacco is going to Peter Budaj in net. The rest could do Anderson some good; he's been good this year but not quite great - and we're not just referring to his Roy Waltz on Saturday. Other than the shutout last year, Anderson doesn't have a great history against the Canucks. In fact, Anderson has 8 losses to Vancouver in his career, more than any other team and his .873 save percentage against Vancouver is the 3rd worst of the 30 teams he's faced (Los Angeles is the 2nd worst and #1 is, interestingly, the Colorado Avalanche). Meanwhile. Peter Budaj is a respectable 5-3-1 against Vancouver in his career.
The big story for the Avalanche is special teams. The Colorado PK ranks 27th in the league. The PP ranks 6th overall...but the team has given up 4 SH goals (officially - for all intents and purposes, it's 5 given up).
The other big stories, for the 3rd or 4th consecutive season, is injuries. Peter Mueller, David Koci and Adam Foote are all out for tonight's game (Foote is not on this road trip), although it appears that Scott Hannan may play. The Canucks are also banged up. Forwards Alex Burrows and Alex Bolduc are out, as are defensemen Sami Salo and Keith Ballard (whew). Dan Hamuis is day-to-day but you figure he'll recover in time to play the Avs as Jamal Mayers and Chris Pronger have done already this year.