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Game 32: Avalanche At Lightning, Preview And Open Thread

Colorado Avalanche
7:30pm ET / 5:30pm MT
Tampa Bay Lightning
15-15-1 December 18, 2008 7-15-8
31 points
St. Pete Times Forum
22 Points
T-11th in West
Tampa, FL
15th in East

We've spent so much time today gutting the team's roster and griping about the apparent onset of insanity in coach Tony Granato to notice that the Colorado Avalanche will be playing the worst team in the entire NHL tonight when they face the Tampa Bay Lightning on the road.

The last time these teams met, in Denver on November 29th, the Avs barely won 4-3. The good news is the Lightning haven't gotten any better since then. The bad news is, neither have the Avs. Colorado is 4-3-1 for the month of December, and still languish at the .500 mark and low in the Western Conference standings.

Paul Stastny is having a good month so far, with 10 points (4g, 6a) in his last 8 games, but he and linemate Milan Hejduk (3g, 6a) are about the only guys who have been consistent. Ryan Smyth hasn't had a point in the last three games. Wojtek Wolski has three goals and no assists in December. Marek Svatos has been hurt. Tyler Arnason . . . oh never mind. You get the idea.

On the other hand, the Lightning are so bad that Vincent Lecavalier is tied for 40th in league scoring, one point behind Stastny with 26 (in 30 games played). Mike Smith, former Marty Turco understudy and a top-notch goalie in his own regard, has a horrendous 5-11-7 record despite maintaining an excellent .924 save percentage and a decent 2.50 goals against average. Not that many Avalanche fans are idiots or have to be told the obvious, but just looking at a win-loss record doesn't really provide an accurate picture of a goaltender's overall ability. All statistics must be taken into account and then considered against the suckitude of the defense in front of the netminder. Just because a bad goalie on a great team has a great record (Chris Osgood 12-2-4) doesn't mean he's better than one who has a bad record because he's on a crappy team. Smith is an excellent example of this fact.

In related news, Andrew Raycroft will be starting in net for the Avs, in case you didn't read the dozens of comments on previous posts lamenting this news. Then again, if you're like many of the recent commentators over at the Denver Post (or the beat writer, who I know is still a fine human being), you're tickled frickin' pink that Peter Budaj will be sitting tonight. It's OK. Not everybody can know what the hell they're talking about all the time.

Just remember that if Andrew Raycroft beats the very worst team in the entire NHL tonight, even if he allows six goals on eight shots, he will have earned the starting job and the Avs can be considered a serious playoff contender from this point on.

ESPN preview. God help us.

2008 - Andrew Raycroft 6 300 4 1 0 0 16 3.20 123 107 .870 0

2008 - Mike Smith 23 1389 5 11 7 5 58 2.51 760 702 .924 1