Colorado (15-8-6) @ Pittsburgh (19-9-0)
The Colorado Avalanche have been the surprise of the NHL, jumping out to a 15-8-6 record. Many NHL pundits predicted a rebuilding year for the Av’s.
The Av’s hot start has them one point out of first place in the Northwest division but Colorado has a lot to prove moving forward.
Colorado’s play in the month of December could tell which direction their season will go. The Avalanche are already showing signs of slowing down in the midst of a 3-4-3 stretch.
The Avalanche face a big test tonight against the Stanley Cup champions, coming off of a 6-5 loss to the Florida Panthers Wednesday night.
The Avalanche are led by forward Paul Stastny (30 pts). Stastny is among the games top playmakers but could be without linemate Milan Hejduk (11 goals) tonight. Hejduk did not play Wednesday night and will be a game time decision against Pittsburgh.
Of late, Colorado has been vulnerable in the defensive zone and on the penalty kill, which has drawn concerns from people in the know that the Avalanche are on their way to taking a step back.
Colorado only has a GF (90) / GA (89) differential of +1 compared to Pittsburgh which has a GF/GA differential of +15.
While the Avalanche may fall back from the pack this season, they are rebuilding their team the right way.
To build a contender, you have to build down the middle and the Avalanche are doing exactly that. Matt Duchene and Paul Statsny will never be Crosby/Malkin but the Avalanche have two players that they can build around up front.
Morning Skate Notes
*Pittsburgh defenseman Alex Goligoski will not play tonight. Goligoski (groin) will miss his second consecutive game after returning to the lineup Saturday night against New York.
However, Goligoski did skate today but likely won’t return to the lineup until Monday night at the earliest.
*Marc Andre Fleury will start in goal and the Penguins will go with the same lineup they had Monday night against New York.
Sidney Crosby is surging in the NHL scoring race. Crosby has 8 points in his last two games and is now 4th in the league in scoring with 33 points. Crosby is 6 points behind points leader Joe Thornton.
*Winger Michael Rupp (8 goals) is third in the NHL in shooting percentage. Rupp has been getting more attention in the locker room the past couple days than goaltender Marc Andre Fleury. Not many could have predicted that.
Rupp though is trying not to get caught up in his scoring surge this season. Rupp is staying focused on just playing his game as he’s drawn comparisons to Chris Simon who found the right system in his career with the Washington Capitals to score 25+ goals.
*The Penguins will wear their third jerseys tonight. Penguins Assistant coach Tony Granato faces his old team and he visited with a number of members from the Avalanche organization this morning.
The Avalanche have given up five or more goals in 6 of 12 games but Pittsburgh expects to face a hard working team that won’t quit.
Fan Mail/ Latest Rumblings
A Pittsburgh – LA trade rumor made the rounds yesterday…….There have been no trade discussions between the Penguins and Kings.
As a team source told me this morning, any trade rumor involving Jordan Staal is a pure fantasy. Staal is not available and won’t be this season.
*Also, Received up to 15 emails yesterday from fans regarding the Penguins exploring the trade market for Ruslan Fedotenko.
The feedback was surprising as most fans who emailed me were against such a move and some were even shocked that Pittsburgh is considering such a move