Avalanche-Blue Jackets Preview
The Colorado Avalanche are brimming with confidence after
beating a team they’re chasing in the Western Conference playoff
They’ll now try to avoid a letdown against the league’s worst
The Avalanche look to continue their dominance over the Blue
Jackets on Friday night in Columbus.
After finishing a four-game road trip with one win, Colorado
(30-27-4) bounced back with Wednesday’s 4-1 victory over Los
Angeles. The win pulled the Avs within two points of the Kings, one
of the teams they’re chasing for a playoff spot.
“This was a must-win game for us,” said Semyon Varlamov, who
made 32 saves for his 16th win – a new career high. “The playoffs
are coming and we need every win.”
Colorado erupted for three first-period goals – the same number
it had in the opening 20 minutes on its four-game trip – in winning
for just the fourth time in the last month (4-6-2).
“From start to finish, we played our game and we didn’t sit
back,” Paul Stastny said. “With big points at stake, sometimes you
sit back and play a little defensive, which we didn’t.”
Stastny had two goals against Los Angeles, production the Avs
hope is a sign of things to come. The center leads the team with 16
goals, but had scored just once in his previous 12 games.
Matt Duchene, who has 12 goals despite missing nearly eight
weeks with a knee injury, played Wednesday for the first time since
Dec. 29. He assisted on Stastny’s second goal, and had the winning
shootout tally in Colorado’s lone game against the Blue Jackets, a
3-2 victory in Columbus on Oct. 12.
The Avs are 8-1-0 against the Blue Jackets since 2009-10, and
these teams meet again March 1 in Colorado.
Columbus (18-35-7) is well out of the playoff picture but is
playing better, going 5-3-1 since Feb. 3. The Blue Jackets defeated
San Jose 6-3 on Tuesday, the first time they’d scored more than
five goals since an 8-1 win over St. Louis on Nov. 10, 2010.
“I think that’s kind of what we envisioned at the start of the
season,” said R.J. Umberger, who had a goal and an assist. “It
just didn’t work out that way. Confidence has a lot to do with a
lot of stuff.”
Jeff Carter had a hat trick Tuesday, while captain Rick Nash had
a goal and an assist in what could be one of the final games in a
Blue Jackets sweater for each. Columbus figures to be a seller as
Monday’s trade deadline approaches, and Carter and Nash’s names
have been mentioned in potential deals.
Nash, who leads the Blue Jackets with 20 goals and 42 points,
has scored in his last three games against the Avs.
Steve Mason finished with 30 saves against Colorado in October,
and has posted a 4.20 goals-against average in losing his last
seven starts in the series (0-5-2) – his longest active skid
against any opponent.
Varlamov made 31 saves in his only career appearance against the
Blue Jackets earlier this season. He has started the last five
games for the Avs, going 2-2-1 with a 2.30 GAA as Jean-Sebastien
Giguere recovers from a groin injury.