Back in the Hunt
Having won 8 of the last 10 games, the Avalanche finds itself back in the playoff picture. Key wins last week to teams like the Minnesota Wild (4-2) and the Los Angeles Kings (2-1 SO) have propelled the team from languishing at 12th in the standings to hovering right at the playoff bubble. The team takes the hot streak on the road starting Friday, January 6, 2012, when it faces the Chicago Blackhawks. The month is a travel-heavy one for the Avs, with 8 of 11 games being played on enemy ice. If Colorado wants to stay in the playoff picture, the players will need to re-embrace their Road Warrior identities from the beginning of the season, turning around the current losing trend on the road.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere returned “home” on New Year’s Eve. For the first time in the two years since he was traded from the Ducks to Toronto, the goaltender played at the Honda Center in Anaheim. It was an important night for him, one he had circled on the calendar as soon as he signed with the Avalanche. “This game has been on my mind all year… I’ve been looking forward to it since the beginning of the year and I’m hoping the reaction is going to be good,” Giguere told the Denver Post. The reaction was more than just good. He received multiple standing ovations during the night, a tribute was aired during the first commercial break and the fans had a hard time containing the cheers at every great save he made. The people of Anaheim love Jiggy, and even watching him lead the Avalanche to a 4-2 victory over the Ducks did nothing to lessen that love. After the game, Giguere said he was touched by the reaction he received. “I consider this place my second home. My kids were born here, and I always had a lot of respect for Ducks fans. I never got a chance to say thanks to them.” Giguere won the Conn Smythe trophy in 2003 while leading the Mighty Ducks on a Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Four years later, he finished what he started by backstopping the team to its first championship.
Duchene out on IR
In a freak incident, Matt Duchene injured his knee during the first period of the Avs’ December 29, 2011, game against the Phoenix Coyotes. Duchene’s skate caught in a rut as he was finishing a check, and it caused his left knee to twist while his skate remained planted, sending the forward immediately to the locker room. Team officials announced the following day that, although he would not need surgery, he would be out of the line up for at least four weeks. Duchene had been struggling this season, posting only 12 goals and 12 assists in 39 games.
Ryan Wilson and Peter Mueller, both out with head injuries, continue to skate with the team. Although Muller remains on injured reserve, Ryan Wilson has just been reactivated. He is accompanying the team on the upcoming road trip, but there is no indication yet on whether or not he will play. The team remains hopeful he will be back in the line up soon, however. Brad Malone was sent back to the Lake Erie Monsters to create room on the roster for Wilson. There is no set return for Duchene; the team said it will be “at least a month.”
The team faces some tough competition over the next week. First up is a visit to Chicago to face Blackhawks on Friday, January 6, 2011. The Hawks are leading the Central Division and sitting 2nd in the West. The Avs play again the following night in St. Louis. The Blues’ hot streak has cooled some as they’ve gone 6-4 over the last ten. Colorado returns home for one game on Tuesday, January 10, 2012, against the Predators but immediately heads back out on Thursday for the second half of a home-and-home against Nashville.