Thursday, February 05, 2004

GameDay: @ Colorado (30-11-9-3, 72) 8:00 EST

Tonight is the first of four games this season between these two bitter rivals. They split last year's series 2-2. The Wings are 2-0-2 in their last four games and are coming off a solid 4-1 win over the Predators on Tuesday. They are 11-11-5-2 away from home this year and will look to go over .500 on the road for the first in a while with a win tonight. Contrary to everyone's expectations, the Wings have had the slightly better offense this year with an average of 3.22 goals-a-game compared to the Avs' 3.12. They also have a higher goals-against average (2.37) than the Avs (2.29), who were supposed to be weak on defense this year. The Wings haven't had the services of their prize acquisition Derian Hatcher all but three games just as the Avs haven't had Paul Kariya and Peter Forsberg for much of the year. That, perhaps, explains the differences in the expected categories. The Wings have had the amazing play of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg along with a career year from Kris Draper, though, which is something not everyone saw coming. The Avs are leading the league with 72 points, just two more than the Wings, and are 13-1-2-2 since December 31. They are coming off a 3-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, a game in which they had no shots on goal during the third. With the retirement of Patrick Roy, most people thought the Avs would have to rely on their offense to win this year, that David Aebischer would not be a real replacement for #33. However, Aebischer has a 23-10-7 record, a 2.06 GAA average and a .928 save percentage and has surprised everyone with his steady play. There are no longer any credible rumors coming out of Denver that have the Avs trading for an established goalie. Rob Blake is probably the frontrunner for the Norris Trophy and his play has gone a long way in bolstering an Avs defense many thought would be too weak to stand up to a whole season and the playoffs. I haven't been able to find out what Lewis decided yet but he was supposed to announce which of the Wings' two goalies would start tonight after the morning skate. Manny Legace played a good game on Tuesday and Curtis Joseph hasn't finished two of his last three starts but played well in the win over New Jersey. It could be either guy. I hope the Wings are up to this game tonight because it is important. They've been in sort of a slump lately but played a good game Tuesday night and should be able to carry that into tonight. This is their first test against the Avs this year and they need to make a statement. I expect a good game from both teams because I know the Avs will play hard and because the Wings usually get up for games like this. They will need to shut down the Avs' offense, which hasn't been as hot as it could have been this year and be creative on offense if they really want to win. They should have no illusions about rolling over the Avs tonight and had better not come out complacent. I've been looking forward to this game for a long time and I don't want them to blow it. Freep News ESPN


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