Avalanche-Blue Jackets Preview

The Colorado Avalanche and Columbus Blue Jackets feel very

differently about themselves after each team played a Stanley Cup

finalist in its last game.

The Avalanche will try to hand the stumbling Blue Jackets

another loss Wednesday night when they continue a five-game road

trip.

Colorado (1-1-0) earned its first victory Monday, 1-0 at Stanley

Cup champion Boston. The Avalanche became the last Western

Conference team to score its first goal on Milan Hejduk’s

third-period tally, and Semyon Varlamov made it stand up with 30

saves.

Coach Joe Sacco’s team opened by getting outshot 39-29 in a 3-0

loss to Detroit on Saturday.

“We’ve had two tough challenges to start the season,” center

Paul Stastny said. “It’s easy to get up for these games, especially

playing a team like this – the defending champs.”

Colorado likely won’t face as great a challenge against Columbus

(0-3-0), which has started with three straight losses for the first

time. The Blue Jackets blew a third-period lead in Monday’s 3-2

home loss to defending Western Conference champion Vancouver.

“More than anything, that was three games in four nights for

us,” coach Scott Arniel said. “We had nothing left in the tank in

the third period.”

The Avalanche have gone 7-1-0 against the Blue Jackets over the

past two seasons. Stastny and Hejduk each had nine points and Matt

Duchene seven in those games.

Neither team has scored on the power play this season, with

Colorado going 0 for 6 and Columbus 0 for 16.

The Blue Jackets came up empty in five chances Monday.

“You know what, our power play has to score,” Arniel said. “I

thought our power play was better tonight. I thought we created a

lot of chances, a lot of second opportunities on shots.”

Compounding Columbus’ problems has been a penalty-kill unit that

has yielded four goals in 11 chances. In addition, Maksim Mayorov

had a penalty shot saved against the Canucks.

“Special teams are key in the NHL nowadays,” left wing Vinny

Prospal said. “We haven’t scored one power-play goal in the three

games and (Vancouver) had one (Monday), and it ended up being a

winner.”

Steve Mason has started all three games, posting a 3.82

goals-against average. He won his first two starts against the

Avalanche but has lost the last six while recording a 4.75 GAA.

Varlamov, meanwhile, bounced back with his fifth career shutout

after losing his Colorado debut. He has never faced Columbus.

“It’s great to have a goalie back there, like that,” defenseman

Ryan O’Byrne told the Avalanche’s official website. “It gives us a

lot of confidence up front.”

Colorado has killed off all six power-play chances by its

opponents, and it could be poised to add to the frustrations of the

Blue Jackets, whose fans have started booing the sputtering power

play.

“I know they are frustrated by it,” Arniel said. “It still is

something with all the new faces, we have to just continue to

hammer away at it.”