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AVALANCHE (23-12-6) at RED WINGS (19-14-6)
Tonight's game will be broadcast on Altitude and Mile High Sports Radio AM 1510.
Last 10 -- Colorado 7-3-0; Detroit 5-4-1
Season series -- The Wings and Avs are meeting for the third time this season, but haven't seen each other since playing twice on consecutive Saturdays in late October. Colorado won both, beating the Red Wings 4-3 in a shootout at Detroit on Oct. 17 and 3-1 at home seven days later. Colorado has won five of the last six meetings after losing 12 of the previous 14.
Big story -- The Avs probably wish the 2009 part of the schedule would never end. Predicted to finish near the bottom of the Western Conference after coming in 28th in the 30-team League in 2008-09, they are assured of ending the calendar year on top of the Northwest Division after Wednesday's 4-3 win in Ottawa. The Wings, on the other hand, probably can't wait to get to 2010 -- they've been battered by injuries that have turned their once-feared offense into a shell of its former self, as witnessed by Monday's 1-0 OT loss at Columbus. They're 10th in the West with 44 points.
Avalanche -- The Avs continue to live dangerously but win. They were outshot 30-20 at Ottawa on Wednesday and nearly blew a 4-1 lead in the third period but hung on to beat the Senators 4-3. Ryan O'Reilly's goal proved to be the game-winner, and Craig Anderson continued his brilliant play this season with 27 saves.
"Around the 10-minute mark, we let them come right back into it and that's been a tendency for us lately," O'Reilly said, "but we are young and we have the leadership and we're changing that. In order for us to be successful down the road, that's something we have to do."
Red Wings -- New Year's Eve at the Joe is a tradition in Detroit, where the injury-riddled Wings are bringing back disco for the last night of 2009. They'd undoubtedly like to bring back some of their missing bodies, too.
But the injuries that have hampered the Wings have given opportunities for youngsters like Justin Abdelkader to make a name for themselves. Abdelkader was among the best Wings in Monday's loss at Columbus and leads the team with 118 hits.
"He's got a chance to be a real good player in our game," Wings coach Mike Babcock told the Detroit Free Press. "He's a heavy body. He's got a big (butt). He's got an opportunity to be strong to play against. He's got real good hockey sense. His hands will get better with time. I think he has a chance to be a real good (third-line center), maybe a two."
Who's hot -- Colorado's Wojtek Wolski has 5-10-15 in 13 games this month. He's tied for the team lead with 15 goals. … Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard has been getting the bulk of the playing time in place of Chris Osgood. He's allowed just two goals in his last two games and is 12-8-2 with a 2.26 goals-against average and .921 save percentage. Todd Bertuzzi is 3-2-5 in his last five games.
Injury report -- Colorado's Kyle Cumiskey (foot) and Marek Svatos (groin) both returned to the lineup Wednesday against Ottawa. Defenseman Ruslan Salei and forward David Jones are on IR. Detroit is still without several regulars, including Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen, though the Wings did get center Valtteri Filppula back over the weekend.
Stat pack -- Colorado was outshot 30-20 at Ottawa, the 29th time in 38 games that the Avs have been outshot -- but they are 17-7-5 in those games. The Avs are also 13-2-6 in one-goal games. … Detroit is 49-for-52 on the penalty kill in its last 16 games, but the power play is just 6-for-66 in the last 17.
Puck drop -- Despite their injuries and struggles, the Wings were very popular when it came to picking team members for the upcoming Olympics. With the U.S. yet to announce its team, the Wings know that eight players will be going to Vancouver for the Games, six of them for Sweden. In contrast, just two Avs (backup goaltender Peter Budaj of Slovakia and injured defenseman Ruslan Salei of Belarus) are headed to Vancouver.