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3/29 Colorado 4, Phoenix 3

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There aren't many givens in life. But, the next time the Coyotes play the Avalanche you can probably make some cash betting that a) Colorado will jump to an early lead and b) almost blow that lead. January 17th: Colorado jumps to a 4-1 lead and barely hangs on as Phoenix cuts it to 4-3. January 26th: the Avs have leads of 3-1 and 4-2, but can't hold them - Phoenix comes back to tie it and ultimately wins in a shootout (wouldn't that extra point be nice right now). March 17th: Colorado has an early 2-0 early lead, but the Coyotes score three straight to make it 3-2 before the Avs finally outdistance them 6-3. Same story last night: the Avalanche jump to a 4-0 lead, hit the snooze button, and barely (and I do mean barely) hang on to win 4-3.

Sadly, it's quite likely that the win will be meaningless. Calgary won for the 5th straight time last night, and now are just 4 points (or 2 Colorado losses) away from locking up the final spot. The Avs will need help from Vancouver, San Jose and Edmonton now to even have a shot.

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Obviously, this post-deadline surge has been a tremendous stretch for the Avalanche. Of 28 available points, the Avs have grabbed 24. Defense and goaltending have been terrific, although both areas have had some moments of inconsistency in the last week or so. One segment that has me concerned a bit is the offense, which might seem counterintuitive considering how much scoring the team has done lately. But all that scoring is coming from just 4 guys - Sakic, Brunette, Hejduk and Stastny. Those 4 players have scored a whopping 50% of the teams goals in the 2nd half (49.5 actually, but still...). In the 36 games played in the 2nd half so far, Sakic has 46 points, Brunette has 41, Stastny and Hejduk have 39. Next on the list is Tyler Arnason with 21 - an 18 point drop. I like the teams' performance lately, but I hope the recent boost doesn't fool anyone into thinking that this team isn't sorely in need of an offensive-minded free agent this summer.

Highlights from the game...

1st Period

20:00 Budaj is back in net, which is nice for my blood pressure. That's not really fair - Theodore did well in the last game.

19:00 My DirecTV feed is from FSN, not Altitude for this game. This means the inimitable Curt Kielback and the affable Darren Pang will be my announcers for the night - a solid team.

17:17 Nick Boynton gets nailed by Ben Guite into the corner boards. That's not really an accurate description - Boynton caused a lot of it himself by turning awkwardly to brace for impact. He's slow to get up. I'm not to proud to admit I watched this one a couple of times. I love my Tivo almost as much as I hate Nick Boynton.

17:10 With Boynton slow to get up, the play continues into the Colorado zone. The puck comes out in front, and Shane Doan races in with a big scoring chance. Instead of shooting, though, Doan skates right past the puck and into Guite. Guite goes flying to the ice, Doan wastes a scoring chance and draws an interference penalty to boot.

16:30 Owen Nolan hits the post on a 2 on 1 shorthanded breakaway.

15:40 Marek Svatos falls down with the puck in the Phoenix zone, resulting in a 3 on 1 chance in the other direction (again, shorthanded). Brett Clark is the only guy back, and makes a great play, going down on the ice and blocking a centering pass with his stick.

13:23 1-0 Colorado. It starts with the forecheck. Stastny is first in on the attack. After he harrasses and moves on, Arnason moves in. He forces a turnover. After moving the puck around in front (and behind) the net, Arnason gets a shot off. Curtis Joseph makes the save, but the rebound goes to Milan Hejduk, inexplicably left alone in front of the net.

12:40 Brad Richardson is playing where he belongs - on the first line with Sakic and Brunette.

12:10 Calgary is winning 4-2. Nice to see that the Wild are saving their A-game for us.

11:56 Wojtek Wolski and John-Michael Liles combine on some incredulously strange (and bad) hockey. The two start skating around in their zone like it's late in the 3rd period of a 9-0 game. Wolski loses the puck while slowly circling. Liles gets it back and floats it up in the air to no one in particular. It doesn't even come close to clearing the zone. What was that?

10:10 The Avalanche have stopped skating. It's just a 1-goal lead, guys.

10:04 If Andrew Brunette's office is behind the opponent's net, Jeff Finger's is just inside the opposing blue line. Finger makes a ton of hits there. This time, it's him on the receiving end, getting hit by Daniel Carcillo.

8:32 Tyler Arnason has two new linemates tonight, skating with Wojtek Wolski and Marek Svatos. I like what I've seen from them so far.

7:15 Brett McLean makes it 2-0, redirecting a centering cross from Milan Hejduk past Joseph. Colorado hasn't been working very hard, but have a 2-goal lead.

7:10 Queens of the Stone Age "No One Knows" is playing over the PA. Somewhere in the last couple of years, arenas stopped choosing songs to annoy us with during the break. Instead, they just pop in Guitar Hero. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

6:34 Ballard leads a rush, and barely misses a redirect attempt. Man, he'd look great in a Colorado uniform, wouldn't he?

5:46 "I Love Rock N Roll" comes over the PA. Guitar Hero for the win.

2nd Period

17:40 The Arnason line is doing quite well tonight. All 3 are working hard, and Svatos looks fast.

17:30 Calgary has won. 9 points back for the Avs, 7 if they win.

17:09 I pride myself on paying close attention to games. I take notes, and back up if I think I need to replay something. And yet, I had no freaking clue Scott Parker was playing in this game or that Ian Laperriere was a scratch. Aparently, Lappy missed the game with a groin injury.

16:50 Niko Kapanen gets called for a hook against Ben Guite.

15:03 Owne Nolan also gets a hooking penalty, giving the Av a brief 5 on 3.

14:24 They don't convert 5 on 3, but they do on the following 5 on 4. Wolski essentially bounces the puck in off of Keith Ballard. Flukey play, but no compaints from Wojtek, who celebrates wildly (can't blame him - he's really been struggling to put up points since the concussion).

12:55 Brunette centers it to Brad Richardson, and Richardson beats Cujo for the 4th goal of the night. Richardson has a respectable 13 goals on the season, 8 in the 2nd half. His low assist total (8) shows that he hasn't exactly been playing with Maurice Richard all year. Meanwhile, Wayne Gretzky makes a very sour face on the Phoenix bench.

12:07 During the commercial break, Joseph is pulled and replaced by Mikael Tellqvist.

6:27 Sakic gets called for tripping. It's the first powerplay of the night for the Coyotes.

1:32 Wolski gets called for holding. Or maybe it was Richardson. I couldn't tell where the penalty occured. At any rate, Wokski ends up in the box.

:12 Carcillo ends the powerplay with a bizarre attack on Richardson. As both chased down the puck, Carcillo jumped on the back of Richardson. Strange.

3rd Period

19:07 Doan does a nice job working the puck on the boards in the Colorado zone. He is very much a model of the type of player I think the Avs need most - a big, physical guy who can score.

18:22 Adams and Sjostrom gets a 2 on 1 break for the Coyotoes.

15:45 Big shot from Bill Thomas. Budaj makes the save, but the rebound goes right to the stick of former Av Steven Reinprecht. 4-1 Colorado.

13:52 Kevyn Adams tips the centering pass from Mathias Tjarnqvist past Budaj. 4-2. And the comeback is on. Colorado is giving just the minimum effort at the moment.

12:03 Svatos races into the Phoenix zone. He doesn't get far, but it's good to see the wheels are working.

11:51 Ballard gets stood up coming into the zone by Kurt Sauer.

10:59 Skrastins takes a fancy poke at the puck when a Coyote is coming into the zone, instead of taking the body. Not surprisingly, the play results in a scoring chance for the Coyotoes. I'm very disappointed with Skratch lately - he really needs some good coaching to exorcise him of some terrible habits.

10:24 Arnason ices the puck needlessly. He has plenty of room to get to the red line before dumping it, but doesn't. One of many head-scratchers tonight from the Avs. To be fair, Arnason and his linemates are the only ones working hard conistently tonight. Except on this one.

8:07 Boynton takes a run at Rycroft, and gets the worst of the deal.

6:20 Sjostrom runs at someone (Svatos?), but misses and flies into the boards face first.

6:05 Again, Arnason's line is the only one generating any offensive pressure.

1:22 With Tellqvist on the bench, Nick Boynton cuts the lead to 1-goal, when his pass goes off of Ken Klee's skate and into the back of the net.

:44 Strong forechecking pressure by Hejduk to help run out the clock.

:07 Last chance for Phoenix, and it's a good one. Carcillo beats Budaj glove side, but it hits the post. Doesn't get much closer than that.

EV Lines

C Sakic, LW Richardson, RW Brunette: 12:54 ATOI (EV), 3 pts (EV), 5 shots, -3
C Stastny, LW McLean, RW Hejduk: 12:28 ATOI (EV), 5 pts (EV), 2 shots, +2
C Arnason, LW Wolski, RW Svatos: 13:06 ATOI (EV), 1 pt (EV), 5 shots, +1
C Guite, LW Rycroft, RW Parker: 12:04 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 4 shots, E

D Clark & D Sauer: 19:29 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 0 shots, +2
D Klee & D Skrastins: 16:34 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 2 shots, +1
D Liles & D Finger: 13:48 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 0 shots, -3