"Is this the same team?"
That's the question my wife had after watching the Avalanche go through the motions on Sunday. The Avalanche were blanked by Marty Turco and the Dallas Stars on Sunday 3-0. They looked like a completely different team than the hustling group that came back against Dallas on Saturday. This version, facing a fired up opponent, started out flat and never turned things around. Both teams were playing for sole possession of first place in their division; obviously, only one team wanted it badly enough to try.
Injury news continues to dominate on the Avalanche front. Peter Forsberg missed the game with a groin injury. Adam Foote missed both weekend games with a hip injury. And the 3rd deadline acquisition, Ruslan Salei, suffered an eye injury after fighting Steve Ott early in the first period. Of the three, Salei's injury seems the most severe - he's flying back to Denver to be re-evaluated, while Forsberg and Foote may play on Tuesday in Atlanta. Colorado also lost Jordan Leopold at the same point as Salei (Steve Ott leveled Leopold into the boards, and Salei's injury came after challenging Ott in retaliation). Leopold appears to be okay. The Avalanche were forced to play most of the game with 4 defensemen. It speaks volumes that the Stars' announcers either didn't mention the injuries or I didn't hear them, yet I didn't notice any fall off by our defensive squad.
Even if Salei's injury is a long term injury (the fear is broken eye socket), defense is not the problem with this club. Our key forwards have been inconsistent at best, invisible at worst. The only forwards to notch more than one shot last night were Milan Hejduk, Ben Guite and Cody McLeod. Guite and McLeod were the two most consistent players last night; when your best players are a 3rd line winger and a 4th line center, you have issues. It is time for our star players to start playing like star players.
With Forsberg out, Jaroslav Hlinka returned to the lineup after 9 games as a healthy scratch. I can't say that he had much of an impact, although really most of the Avalanche forwards were non-existent, so I don't know that one can make a fair assessment from that one game. One thing to watch for: Wojtek Wolski was dropped from the Sakic line to the 4th line. How he earns the trip to the doghouse when everyone around him is playing just as bad is beyond the reasoning powers of my tiny brain.
- A day after I complained about Sakic's draws, he went 7 of 8 in the faceoff circle.
- In the two games played in Dallas this year, the Avalanche were outscored 9-1 [my math has been fixed] and outshot 52-37.
- Scott Hannan played 32:14 and had 5 blocks.
The Avalanche visit the Atlanta Thrashers on Tuesday, one of two non-divisional games remaining on the schedule. After hosting the Oilers on Wednesday, the Avs welcome the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. The rest of the way, it's all NW teams.