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Game 33: Avalanche At Panthers, Preview And Open Thread

Colorado Avalanche
5:00 pm ET / 3:00 pm MT
Florida Panthers
16-15-1 December 21, 2008 14-13-4
33 points
BankAtlantic Center
32 Points
10th in West
Sunrise, FL
T-10th in East

Today the Colorado Avalanche continue their tour of the Southeast Division, facing the Florida Panthers, another team cruising just above the .500 mark and sitting just outside of playoff position.

The only thing Avalanche fans seem to care about lately is the apparent battle between Peter Budaj and Andrew Raycroft for the starting goalie spot. Of course, that apparent battle isn't a battle at all, since Raycroft is a backup goalie and Budaj is the starter, regardless of whether or not one has a bad game or the other has a good game.

For all of Tony Granato's faults and failures so far this season, I admire his dedication to intelligent goalie-handling. He's picked a starter and stuck with him, unlike his predecessor Joel Quenneville. Quenneville's getting away with running his usual goalie carousel, this time in Chicago, because of the Blackhawks' killer offense, but Granato knows that won't work for the Avs or Peter Budaj. Budaj thrives on long strings of starts, and the Avalanche offense is far too inconsistent to rely on out-scoring every opponent 6-5.

From Dater's Denver Post preview:

"Rayzor's played great, but Boods has played great games for us too," Granato said. "That's why you've got two goalies. We've played a lot of games and had a lot of travel lately. The last 30-40 days, it's been pretty grinding, so Rayzor got a couple games in. (Budaj) just has to be himself.

"He's played extremely well for us the last couple months. If you have a game that you're not happy with or a couple games, that's part of it for everybody. Sometimes you go through a stretch where you're not totally happy with the way you're playing, but we're not going to go back and evaluate and critique on a game-to- game basis. You want to look at the big picture."

Translation: Budaj is the starter, you morons. Raycroft got a couple of starts because he was playing well and it's a long road trip and Budaj is tired. That's it. No controversy, no battle, no debate.

Of course, Budaj needs to play better than he has of late and the Avs need to put together a decent win streak to get back in the Northwest Division fight (a win today would move them into third above Minnesota). The half-way mark of the season is fast upon us.

For the Panthers, starter Thomas Vokoun will be in net. Like Budaj, he's played well for the most part but has a weak team in front of him. His 6-10-1 record doesn't seem to match his 2.89 goals against average and .914 save percentage. Regardless, he's still one of the better goalies in the league and will pose a major challenge to the on-again, off-again Avalanche offense.

ESPN preview.

2008 - Peter Budaj 27 1574 11 14 1 1 74 2.82 732 658 .899 1

2008 - Tomas Vokoun 19 1018 6 10 1 3 49 2.89 573 524 .914 1