Youthful Avs look to continue early surge
AVALANCHE (5-1-1) at RED WINGS (3-3-0)
Season series --
In what is fast becoming an early-season tradition, this is the first meeting of the season between these teams. The Avalanche took three of four from the Western Conference champions last season.
Big Story --
The Avalanche is surprising many experts with its fast start, which has been anchored by the goaltending of Craig Anderson
. He's 5-1-1 with a 1.99 GAA and .940 save percentage. The Red Wings have been up and down in their first six games, most recently following a 6-2 smoking by the Sabres in Buffalo with a 5-2 home win against the Kings.
When a team says goodbye to a Hall of Famer like Joe Sakic, trades a reliable veteran like Ryan Smyth and replaces them with a pair of 18-year-olds, it's a sign they are rebuilding. But as the Avs' record shows, relying on rookies Matt Duchene
and Ryan O'Reilly
hasn't hurt one bit.
O'Reilly scored his first NHL goal Thursday night -- the game-winner -- in the Avs' 3-2 win in Montreal.
"It happened so fast, I can't really believe it," O'Reilly told the Denver Post. "Both linemates were working hard, and I was just sort of laying in the weeds doing nothing, and I just got a great pass and got a lucky bounce and put it in."
Red Wings --
Injuries, shaky goaltending and horrendous penalty killing have been major factors in Detroit's slow start.
Johan Franzen is out four months with a knee injury, Pavel Datsyuk has a lingering upper-body injury, Chris Osgood's goals-against average is north of 3.00, and the Red Wings have only killed off 66.7 percent of man-down situations. Coach Mike Babcock sees room for improvement.
"In three of the five games we played this year," Babcock told the Detroit Free Press before Thursday's win against L.A., "we've been outskated. If we want to have success and want to feel good about ourselves … we've got to work as 20 guys, and we've got to be diligent with our system play, and that will allow our skill to come out. Right now, it's not good enough."
Who's Hot --
Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom has three goals in his past three games, and Colorado's Milan Hejduk
has three goals in his past four games.
Injury Report --
Franzen had surgery on his left knee Friday and is out for four months. Datsyuk has an upper-body injury that will keep him out for a second straight game. Defenseman Andreas Lilja (concussion) has been on IR since the preseason.
For the Avs, defenseman John-Michael Liles
is out two weeks with a shoulder injury and blueliner Ruslan Salei (back) is on IR.
Stat Pack --
In this battle of experience vs. youth, the Red Wings have only two players under the age of 25. Meanwhile, the Avs boast eight players who are younger than 25.
Puck Drop --
The Avalanche would love to prove its hot start isn't just a fluke with a win at Joe Louis Arena, while the Red Wings are hoping to get contributions from some of their lesser-known players while Franzen and Datsyuk are on the mend.
--Dave Lozo, NHL.com