Avalanche Begin Five-Game Road Trip vs. Lightning
AVALANCHE (14-8-5) at LIGHTNING (10-6-8)
Tonight's game will be broadcast on Altitude and Mile High Sports Radio AM 1510.
Colorado 2-5-3; Tampa Bay 5-2-3
First of two meetings in a 12-day span, with Tampa Bay visiting Colorado on Dec. 11. The Avalanche swept the Lightning last season, with Wojtek Wolski scoring a pair of goals in a 4-3 win at Pepsi Center on Nov. 29, 2008, and Milan Hejduk
being credited with a controversial shootout goal for a 2-1 win at the St. Pete Times Forum on Dec. 18. Hejduk had a backhand shot stopped by goalie Mike Smith, who was charged with throwing his stick on the play when it came loose in making the save.
This is the beginning of a five-game road trip for Colorado, which is used to being away from home for long stretches of time – the Avalanche has already survived seven-game and four-game swings nicely, with a combined 6-3-2 record. They could use similar success on this one, as a 2-5-3 stretch has dropped them out of first place in the Northwest Division.
Getting swept by Minnesota in a home-and-home, including a 3-2 shootout loss on Saturday, left Colorado 0-1-2 in a stretch of three games in four nights. To make matters worse, the Avalanche lost forward David Jones
– probably for the season – when Wild forward Chuck Kobasew fell on his leg after a collision in the third period, causing Jones to tear his anterior cruciate ligament.
"I think that when you have those injuries, it's an opportunity for other players," coach Joe Sacco said. "It gives them a chance to be put in different situations and see how they respond."
Trailing 3-1 in Dallas on Saturday with less than five minutes to play, Tampa Bay had to consider itself fortunate to earn a point after Steven Stamkos and Jeff Halpern scored goals 47 seconds apart to force overtime. They ultimately lost 4-3 in a shootout.
"These kind of games show you that you have to stay in games because you never know what can happen," coach Rick Tocchet told the Tampa Tribune. "We got the game to 3-3 and then get a power play with two minutes left. We would have taken that at the beginning of the game."
Colorado's leading scorer, Paul Stastny
, has two goals and five points in his last four games. … Stamkos has taken the Tampa scoring lead with goals in consecutive games and a four-game point streak in which he's recorded three goals and four assists.
Jones joins defensemen Ruslan Salei (back) and Kyle Cumiskey
(foot) on injured reserve for the Avalanche. Hejduk missed the last game with the Wild and is questionable for Monday with a knee injury.
Lightning defenseman Mattias Ohlund (foot) hasn't played since Nov. 14 and fellow blueliner Paul Ranger remains away from the team due to personal reasons.
Halpern has been more of a defensive center the past two seasons for Tampa, but he has goals in five consecutive games against Colorado dating back to his days playing in Dallas.
This won't be an easy trip for the Avalanche, which completes the Florida portion against the Panthers on Wednesday and then faces the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins the following night. They'll start by trying to avoid a season-high fourth straight loss against the Lightning.