It's the Fox broadcast tonight (still getting shutout in my quest to find the Altitude feed). Dan Terhaar on the pbp with Mike Greenlay doing color. I like this team.
Demitra and Gaborik are both out tonight again (they missed the last game as well). Ossi Vaananen's old nemesis, Stephane Veilleux, will also miss the game. Goaltender Niklas Bakstrom is back and will start, facing off against Peter Budaj.
20:00 I see my suggestions for line tweaks has been summarily ignored – the Stastny, Wolski and Hejduk line is intact.
18:53 Well, some of my suggestions were heeded: Andrew Brunette is playing with Sakic and Smyth. That one was easy to call.
17:45 The Wild have iced the puck 3 times already this game.
14:58 Cumiskey joins the rush, and ends up streaking to the front of the net. He can't quite handle Sakic's centering pass, but that's exactly the type of play I think the Avs need to do more of.
13:45 Svatos has dropped from the 1st line to the 4th line.
13:32 Wolski's wraparound attempt is turned aside by Backstrom
13:11 Stellar move by Hejduk to break in on Backstrom. Backstrom stops it and Wolski is in the perfect position to ram home the rebound, but couldn't pull the trigger.
12:21 Sakic set up Brunette perfectly, but Bruno missed the open net. Hope these two plays don't come back to haunt us.
9:33 Brunette goes off for hooking Keith Carney. The Wild get the first PP of the game.
7:33 Terrific kill for the Avs.
6:44 Liles pokechecks the puck away inside the blueline. It's a nice play, but it doesn't clear the zone. The Wild get a scoring chance on the ensuing play – but Liles gets his stick down to block the wraparound attempt.
6:30 Meanwhile, Smyth goes off for slashing.
5:54 Budaj is stung after blocking a blistering slapshot from Kurt Foster. That guy can really let them fly.
4:12 Smyth scores after coming out of the box. Smyth starts the play behind the Minnesota net. He tosses it out front. It gets to Hannan. Hannan tries to center it to Sakic, but the puck gets mangled in traffic. It ends up on the stick of Smyth just to the right of Backstrom. He makes a quick move to get open net and buries it. 1-0 Colorado.
1:52 For those keeping score, Bruno is back on the 3rd line and Svatos is back on the 1st line.
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19:18 The Stastny line certainly is "on" tonight – they've had numerous near misses already.
17:57 Liles carries the puck all the way into the Minnesota zone before dropping it off and racing to the net. It's the same play that Cumiskey made earlier in the game.
17:21 Laperriere is hurt. He and Sheppard make contact. Lappy spins but his left skate gets stuck against Sheppard's skate and he twists his leg very ackwardly on the way down. Hopefully, it's not as bad as it looked.
17:00 The Wild get called for a penalty. The Avs were playing with an extra attacker because of the delayed call and have possession, but the refs whistle it down, apparently because Budaj's replacement came on a bit too early.
15:05 Cumiskey gets a good PP shot. Brunette just misses a rebound chance. Did someone recently say that good things will happen when the point men shoot more? Oh yeah, it was me.
14:15 Another PP for the AVs – Sheppard with a hold on Smith.
14:06 Backstrom robs Hejduk from point blank.
14:01 2-0! It's a mad flury. Sakic takes the first shot from beyond the circle. It gets blocked, Backstrom goes down, and there's a scramble to get to the puck. The Avs take about 13 whacks at the puck before Stastny manages to find it and slam it home. Two goal lead – time to go into defensive mode.
13:03 Just kidding, coach. Don’t do that.
12:31 Finger and Aaron Vorros get into a scrap after the whistle. Budaj freezes the puck, and Vorros skates in on Budaj and gives Finger a little shove from behind. Finger turns around and chases Vorros down. The two drop the gloves, but it's pretty much over before the FSN booth figures out what's going on and cut back to the ice. Both of these guys have been in the AHL until recently – I wonder if they have some pre-existing history.
11:53 Eric Belanger just misses a rebound chance. Could have been 2-1 there.
10:46 Lappy is "doubtful" to return. I'm not happy about this turn of events at all.
10:12 Hannan to the box for tripping.
9:52 Fluky goal. Rolston rifles a smoking slapshot. It goes wide, hits the back boards, bounces up in the air, hangs for what seems like an eternity, and then drops down right on top of Budaj's arm and down into the net. 2-1 Colorado. Belanger gets credit for tipping in a puck that probably was going to go in anyway.
8:50 Hey, look at this: Brunette is out with Sakic. I give up.
7:11 Sauer, um…I'm not really sure. Up on the left wing boards, Sauer goes to dump it in. He fans. He tracks down the puck, tries again. And fans. He gives up, turns around to get off the ice, and falls down.
5:03 Nifty goal from that Stastny fella. It was a plain old 2 on 2, Stastny with Wolski. Stastny carries the puck, stops quickly and fires a shot past Backstrom's glove. Pretty move. 3-1 Colorado.
4:10 Iffy play from Cumiskey. On D, he pokes the puck away to his partner Hannan. Hannan's got a Wild player right with him, though, and the puck goes right to him with a clean lane to the net.
3:13 Belanger takes a stupid penalty. Sauer raps up Belanger and hauls him down. Belanger punches Sauer in retaliation and gets penalized. Sauer really could have been called there, but he gets away with one.
:16 Minnesota should start the 3rd on the PP. Hlinka trips Koivu.
:5 Or not. Nummelin makes a nice cross ice pass to Bouchard who scores on a wide open net. That's a deflating goal. Avs still lead, now 3-2.
18:42 Nice play by Scott Hannan in the neutral zone to take the puck away from a Wild forward and kill a chance before it could develop.
17:03 Brett Clark joins the play and takes the puck all the way behind the Minnesota net. On the play, Nick Schultz interferes with someone and puts the Avs on the PP.
15:56 Liles shoots from the point. The puck gets stopped, gets loose in the crease. No goal, but another fine example of shots from the point creating good chances for the team.
11:10 Arnason splits the D and gets hooked on the way to the net. Greenlay is upset because Hannan got away with an interference penalty a few minutes earlier. He's got a legit beef. At any rate, Avs get a PP.
8:17 Minnesota is working hard to score that tying goal now.
7:35 To their credit, the Avs are still applying offensive pressure.
4:42 Tense game.
2:55 Koivu had a chance in the slot, but missed it wide.
2:13 The Stastny line dodges a bullet – all 3 forwards were behind the Wild net and were stuck when the play went the other way. Luckily, the Wild ended up offsides on the rush.
1:55 Radivoyovich (sure I'm still doing that wrong) hooks Finger in the offensive zone. Jerseys and Hockey Love's Tapeleg's new best friend is now MY new best friend.
1:20 The Wild get rush. Foster rips a beauty of a shot to the net, and Budaj makes a beautifuler glove save to preserve the lead.
:20 Backstrom comes off and the Avs ice it. Colorado takes a time out to rest their players. Stastny is one of the guys out there – if there's an empty net chance, you can be sure everyone will be looking to dish to him.
:01 Or perhaps Wolski will just shoot it himself.
The Avs win a huge one. Since I've really just been doing this for this season and last season, I'm not sure I've written the following sentence yet: "The Avalanche increase their divisional lead with the win tonight". That feels good, baby.