Avalanche-Blue Jackets Preview
Matt Duchene is unexpectedly among the NHL's goal-scoring leaders and has already surpassed his total from last season.
Much of his success has come on the road, but that's eluded him when visiting the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Duchene looks to continue his road production Saturday night when the Colorado Avalanche face the league-worst Blue Jackets.
Duchene's 22 goals are one more than he had all of last season and five off his career high set in 2010-11. The All-Star center has scored 15 of his goals away from home, including four in the last three games.
He tallied just 51 seconds into Thursday's 3-0 home victory over New Jersey to support Calvin Pickard's first career shutout.
"It was a great first shift, and it capped off with a goal," Pickard told the team's official website. "It was a beautiful goal. Dutchy made a nice move. To get that first goal right away, it gave our team some confidence. It looked like our team was playing with confidence all night."
The Avalanche (22-20-3) have won four of six overall and now play five of their next seven on the road, where they are 6-2-0 in the last eight. They've enjoyed plenty of success in Columbus with a 7-1-1 mark in the past nine visits.
That's come without much from Duchene, who had no goals in his first seven games there before scoring in a 4-0 victory March 7.
Semyon Varlamov, who had 44 saves in that matchup, is expected to be back in net for this one after backing up Pickard Thursday.
Varlamov hasn't been terribly sharp lately, going 3-4-2 with a 3.75 goals-against average in his last nine games. He stopped 32 shots but was beaten twice in the third period in a 4-3 loss to the Blue Jackets on Oct. 24.
Columbus (16-25-4) got its top netminder back after activating Sergei Bobrovsky from injured reserve Friday following a 16-game absence due to a groin strain.
The Jackets went 5-9-2 without him, and they might miss him for one more as he'll reportedly act as a backup to rookie Joonas Korpisalo.
Korpisalo is 2-4-1 with a 3.27 GAA in seven games, but he was superb in a 41-save performance in Wednesday's 3-1 win at Toronto that snapped the team's four-game slide.
"I think a big part of winning in the NHL is your structure and play away from the puck," coach John Tortorella said. "I think we're good at it sometimes, sometimes we can't find it. ... We've talked about it since I've been here and it's the consistency of playing with structure and I don't think we've totally played with that.
Scott Hartnell and Brandon Saad are the Blue Jackets' two leading scorers but both have been quiet lately. Hartnell has no goals in six games while Saad has one point in five after tallying six goals with five assists during a seven-game point streak.
Colorado's Jarome Iginla, who recently became the 19th player in league history to reach 600 goals, has tallied in three straight games against Columbus.