The Colorado Avalanche have experienced a solid turnaround under
first-year coach Patrick Roy, but they were humbled by a winless
road trip against three of the Western Conference’s top teams.
They’ll look to end their skid Sunday night as they begin a
seven-game homestand against a Winnipeg Jets squad seeking to avoid
a fourth straight road loss.
Colorado (23-11-3) is in the thick of the conference race after
finishing with the fewest points in the West in last season’s
lockout-shortened campaign, though it went 0-2-1 on its road trip
against Los Angeles, San Jose and Chicago.
The Avalanche’s upcoming homestand runs through Jan. 10.
Friday’s 7-2 loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion
Blackhawks marked the Avalanche’s fourth defeat in five games
overall. Paul Stastny’s goal midway through the second period was
the team’s first after falling behind 5-0.
“It felt like we were playing in the wrong league there for a
little bit,” said Matt Duchene, whose five-game point streak ended.
“We were down before 3-0 before we knew what hit us.”
Duchene went in on a breakaway in the second period, but he was
stripped of the puck from behind and Chicago capitalized on the
turnover seconds later.
“That was the story of the night for us, to be honest with you,”
Roy said. “You’re going a breakaway and all of sudden the puck goes
the other way.”
Duchene scored in Colorado’s 3-2 win over Winnipeg on Oct. 27,
then had two goals and an assist before scoring in the shootout of
a 4-3 victory in the second meeting Dec. 12.
Jets winger Blake Wheeler had two goals in that game after
scoring one in the first matchup.
Wheeler scored twice Friday, including the game-winner midway
through the third, as Winnipeg returned home to beat Minnesota 6-4.
The Jets (17-18-5) had dropped three of four – each loss coming on
the road – and six of eight.
“It hasn’t been an easy month,” Wheeler said. “It’s been tough.
A lot of our guys have been doing a lot of soul searching. Losing
hockey games isn’t a whole lot of fun. It’s not a whole lot of fun
to be productive in losses. You want to produce towards wins.”
The sixth-year winger has done his share of producing lately,
recording nine goals and three assists over his last 12. Wheeler
had five goals through his first 28 games.
“I think confidence plays into it,” Wheeler said. “When the puck
starts going in the net you find yourself getting into the scoring
areas a little bit more. The puck seems to bounce your way a little
Ondrej Pavelec could be in net for this contest despite allowing
three goals on six shots within the first 7:04 on Friday. Al
Montoya made 22 saves in relief.
“I thought Monty did a great job once he got in there,” captain
Andrew Ladd said. “The first three goals, there was nothing Pav
could’ve done about them, so it was more about trying to get some
momentum for our group on the bench.”
Pavelec, though, is 1-6-1 with a 4.10 goals-against average in
his last nine games.
The Avalanche are likely to counter with Semyon Varlamov after
Jean-Sebastien Giguere gave up each goal Friday before being pulled
to start the third. Varlamov made 13 saves.
Varlamov was in net for both previous meetings with the Jets,
beating Montoya in the first and Pavelec this month.