I'm not kidding when I say that I started to write "Avalanche At Flames" in the title of this post. No joke. Finally, after what seems like an eternity (actually two months), the Avalanche have broken free of the division-heavy stranglehold that was the first part of this season. They now embark on a two-game road trip to face the San Jose Sharks (tonight) and the Los Angeles Kings (tomorrow night). From then on it's almost exclusively Western Conference foes from outside the Northwest Division for the next couple of months.
The Sharks are playing fairly well lately, and have a record and a point total similar to the Avalanche. What differs for the two teams is their performances at home and on the road. We all know how the Avs are doing on the road (hint: it rhymes with "pourable"). The Sharks, however, have played their best hockey when not in the HP Pavilion, and have an inversely successful record at home. That's good news for the Avalanche.
What isn't good news for the Avalanche is that captain Joe Sakic injured his groin on Wednesday against the Oilers. He's expected to play tonight, according to the Rocky Mountain News via ESPN, but you never know how that might affect his play. He's had goals in consecutive games, and I'd hate to see that streak die an early death.
UPDATE: Speaking of groin problems, Marek Svatos has apparently strained his sensitive area (very bottom) and will not play tonight. Not sure of his long-term status, but I hope it's not serious. Keep those legs close together, boys!
Also bad news is the demotion of Brad Richardson to Lake Erie. Why he, who has been playing very well, in my opinion, was sent down instead of Wyatt Smith, the current Avalanche whipping boy, I have no clue. But I will say this. Wyatt Smith is a fine person and a decent hockey player. I don't hate him, nor do I think people who have criticized his place on the team hate him either. He was never expected to score a ton of goals or rough up the opposition, so he hasn't let anyone down. I just think Smith should play somewhere more appropriate for his skill level, which, I'm sorry for him, is probably the American Hockey League. It's not personal, Wyatt. You can come over for dinner any time.
So anyway, Richardson got sent down. Boooooo.
What is good, however, is that TJ Hensick got called up. It's hard not to like a guy who lit the ice on fire in both training camp and in the preseason. He's got speed, great hands and a keen offensive sense. He's also 22, so he's not some young pup you have to worry about cracking under pressure. All reports suggest that he will likely get some ice time tonight and not be forced to sit in the Parker Seat (press box), making tonight his first ever NHL game. Also, it gives me more opportunities to refer to him as Hensiiick (one s, three i's, make a note), which never gets old.
Also good for the Avs is that the goalie carousel has finally been broken. Peter Budaj will get his second consecutive start after beating the Oilers on Wednesday. That also probably means that Jose Theodore will play tomorrow against the Kings because 1) it's the second game in two days and 2) it's against the Kings, who suck. But if Budaj got to start every game from now until the end of the season, well, that would be fine with me.
Theo, I don't hate you though. You are welcome to join Wyatt Smith at my dinner table, just don't bring a date.
The game starts tonight at 8:30PM Mountain time, 10:30 Eastern. It being Hensiiick's first game, I'll probably clear my busy, exciting weekend schedule to live blog the game tonight. I encourage all you crazy MHH members to join in.