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Game 35: Red Wings At Avalanche, Preview And Open Thread

Detroit Red Wings
9:00 pm ET / 7:00 pm MT
Colorado Avalanche
23-7-4 December 27, 2008 17-16-1
50 points
Pepsi Center
35 Points
2nd in West
Denver, CO
T-10th in West

It occurs to me that the last really good news we had to comment on here at Mile High Hockey was on December 15th, when the Avalanche beat the Red Wings in Detroit, 3-2. That was pretty great. Since then, it's been nothing but bad news. First of all, the Avs still can't string together even a two-game win streak. Colorado hasn't won consecutive games since beating the Canucks on December 7th and the Kings on December 9th.

Coach Tony Granato has adopted Goalie Carousel Hell version 2.0, playing Andrew Raycroft three times in the last five games, including the team's last one, a 5-4 OT win over the Coyotes. The madness continues tonight as Granato turns back to "starter" Peter Budaj to face down the high-flying Red Wings.

If Budaj had a tough enough job already, his predicament will be compounded by the chaos in front of him. After losing Joe Sakic for three months (or more) to a freak snow blower accident (seriously, I still can't type that and believe it), the Avs expected to lean heavily on top scorer Paul Stastny. Now they can't even do that, since a blocked slap shot broke the young stud's arm and sidelined him for who knows how long.

The loss of Sakic and Stastny means the Avs must turn to their lesser centers to fill in the gaps. That means that Tyler Arnason, he of 10 points in 33 games, will slide in on the top line between Ryan Smyth and Milan Hejduk. Let that sink in. Tyler Arnason is the new first line center of the Avalanche. I'm not the only one having a tough time adjusting.

Behind "Chuck" on the second line will be underachieving TJ Hensick, who has never had a better chance to prove himself worthy of a spot in the big league. Word has it that he'll be on a line with Wojtek Wolski and David Jones. That should be interesting. On paper that line would be devastating, but none of those players is yet playing to the extent of their abilities, so we'll probably just get to watch them not score, as usual.

The defense is largely the same but Ruslan Salei is still listed as questionable with an upper body injury and probably won't play. Not that many people care considering how shady his performance has been so far this year. But hopefully he'll be back and ready to play well. Better late than never.

Another win against the Red Wings would be pretty amazing. But with the injuries and the uncertainty at almost every position, the Avalanche are looking a lot like the team that got swept by Detroit in the playoffs last year. Let's hope for the best.

ESPN preview.

2008 - Ty Conklin 16 938 11 4 0 1 40 2.56 443 403 .910 2

2008 - Peter Budaj 28 1633 11 15 1 2 76 2.79 755 679 .899 1