Having the Western Conference's best home record has helped the Colorado Avalanche move into a tie atop the Northwest Division. Better efforts on the road should help keep them there.
On Friday night, the Avalanche will try for their third straight road win and move into sole possession of the division lead as they meet the Vancouver Canucks, who are trying to avoid their first five-game losing streak at GM Place in nearly two years.
While the Avalanche are 8-1-0 at home, their play away from the Pepsi Center has improved recently after a rough start. Colorado scored only six goals while losing its first four road games, but have since notched a total of seven in wins at Edmonton and Calgary.
And in spite of their inconsistent play on the road, Colorado has 20 points to tie Minnesota for the Northwest lead. The Wild are idle on Friday.
This contest also is the start of a tough two-week stretch for Colorado (10-5-0), which will play five of its next six on the road, including three in row at Minnesota, Calgary and Edmonton starting on Nov. 16.
The Avalanche wrapped up a four-game homestand on Wednesday with a 4-3 shootout win over Edmonton. Ian Laperriere scored twice in regulation before Wojtek Wolski and Marek Svatos scored in the shootout.
"Tonight, I was in the right place at the right time," Laperriere said. "I'm not a goal scorer, but I know I can help my team in that regard."
Colorado's lone home loss this season came Saturday when Vancouver (7-8-0) came away with a 4-3 win. Daniel Sedin had two goals and an assist while twin brother Henrik added three assists.
Svatos scored twice for Colorado, and Joe Sakic added an assist. Sakic, the Avalanche's longtime captain and all-time scoring leader, has 15 goals and and 33 assists in 34 games there.
The Canucks, who haven't lost five straight at home since Dec. 17-26, 2005, return there after a 3-2 win over Calgary on Thursday. Roberto Luongo, who's struggled after a career-best 47-win season in 2006-07 to the lead Vancouver to the Northwest title, made 22 of his 36 saves in the final period.
"We won two big games on the road in two hard buildings to win in," said Luongo, who also may have made Canucks fans nervous when he allowed goals 33 seconds apart to Anders Eriksson and Owen Nolan midway through the third period.
Last season, Luongo did not lose more than three straight at home en route to a 26-11-4 record with a 2.35 goals-against average. He comes into this contest having lost his last four home starts and is 1-6-0 with a 3.37 GAA at GM Place.
Luongo has surrendered at least three goals in all his home losses, and he's given up seven goals while losing his last two home starts against the Avalanche.
Brendan Morrison, former Flame Byron Ritchie and Alex Burrows scored in a 5:42 span of the second period on Wednesday as Vancouver won for the fifth time in seven road games.
And, in goal tonight ...
oel Quenneville knows there are critics. He knows some say he has gone mad the way he uses - and according to his critics, abuses - his goalies.
But the Avalanche coach has a method to his madness, one he hopes will have a huge payoff for his team in the end. While most NHL teams today are content with having a No. 1 goalie who sees the vast majority of game action, Quenneville is rolling the dice that his team can have two No. 1s. And, that the goalies, Peter Budaj and Jose Theodore, will embrace the "share and share alike" philosophy, without ego issues or petty jealousies that have surfaced in some past goalie rotations.
For Quenneville and the Avs, it's a case of so far, so good. Colorado takes a 10-5 record
into tonight's game at Vancouver, with Budaj having six of the wins to the four for Theodore, tonight's starter. The two have alternated starts the past six games and, while Quenne- ville said the rotation might not stay equal for various reasons, he sees no reason to change things now.
"I just think both guys are playing pretty well, and keep 'em both playing," Quenneville said. "I think it's competitive among the two of them. I think it's healthy, but I think there's a genuine sincerity that the other guy does well. Both guys had an opportunity to get the net at the start of the year, and they're both doing what we were hoping they'd do."
Pure goalie rotations aren't as prevalent in the NHL as they used to be. Some teams used to carry three goalies on a roster, with all three seeing action on a consistent basis. Now, teams rarely carry more than two, and their designations usually are clear: the No. 1 and his backup.
When the designations aren't clear, there can be problems, similar to some starting quarterback feuds in the NFL. Ed Belfour and Jeff Hackett, now the Avalanche's goalie coach, clashed in Chicago in the 1996-97 season over playing time. Former Avs
Jose Theodore | Games: 6 ... Record: 4-2-0 ... GAA: 2.28 ... Save %: .918 (Getty | Doug Pensinger)
goalie Patrick Roy never liked sharing playing duties, and his relationship with Brian Hayward on the Montreal Canadiens in the 1980s was stormy when Hayward's playing time increased. In 1986-87, Hayward's save percentage and goals-against average were better than Roy's, and he played 37 games.
"I think Pat was always a little bit frustrated at me playing so much," Hayward said. "I remember he and I discussing it, and him saying, 'I just can't play, if we have four games in a week, I can't play two of them. I need to play three or four.' And I would just kind of say, 'Well, then, you go out and outplay me because I'm going to go out there and try to outplay you.' That's just the way it was. Very competitive."
But there do not seem to be any jealousy issues between Budaj and Theodore. The two appear to enjoy each other's company and often can be seen talking about games at their conclusion.
Budaj, in his third year in the league, credits Theodore, the former Hart Trophy winner, for much of their harmony.
"I've tried to be good to Jose, and Jose has been nothing but great to me," Budaj said. "We talk about stuff, and he helps me out. It's awesome to have a relationship like that. I think it's much better to play on a team where the other goalie is your friend. Otherwise, it wouldn't be fun. There would be more pressure, and it wouldn't be a good atmosphere in the dressing room."
Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman believes an equal goalie rotation can work well. It did for him as coach of the Buffalo Sabres in the 1980s. In 1979-80, Bob Sauve and Don Edwards split the goalie duties fairly equally, and they combined for the fewest goals allowed in the league. The next season, they played close to an equal amount as well.
"They were both playing pretty well, and I had just got there and didn't know much about them," Bowman said. "We just went with the both of them. We couldn't distinguish one from the other too well."
A goalie that plays only a handful of games per season has what Bowman calls "the toughest job in the league."
"You practice all the time, but when you go in they want you to be in game shape. It's tough," Bowman
Peter Budaj | Games: 10 ... Record: 6-3-0 ... GAA: 2.95 ... Save %: .894 (NHLI | Michael Martin)
Bowman's guess is that one of the two Avs goalies will eventually "grab the job," and Quenneville indicated that may happen. But if both continue to play well, who knows?
"It's early in the year, and I'm not saying that's how it's going to be all year," Quenneville said. "It's not etched in stone that it's going to happen. But we'll just see how it progresses."
Theodore credits his goalie coach, Hackett, for helping him learn how to co-exist in harmony with a fellow goalie. The two shared much of the goaltending duties for Montreal in the late 1990s.
"Hack was always great to me. He was the veteran and I was the younger guy, but he really made me feel comfortable and was always a friend," Theodore said. "And it's great still having him around to talk to. He's a great guy to learn from."
Winning helps rotation
Hall of Fame goalie Grant Fuhr says for any goalie rotation to work, both have to be playing fairly well and feel good about their own play, along with the team's. That was never a problem with him on the great Edmonton teams of the 1980s, when he split the goalie duties fairly evenly with Andy Moog.
"We just wanted to win, bottom line, so we were happy for each other, because we won a lot," Fuhr said, laughing. "We certainly didn't lack for goal support. But at the same time, yeah, it was a little competitive, too, but in a good way. If you're happy not playing, you shouldn't be in the league. But when everybody's winning and doing well, everybody's happy."
Adrian Dater: 303-954-1360 or email@example.com
A fab five rotation
The Avalanche has rotated goalies Peter Budaj and Jose Theodore, with both having solid starts while helping the team to a 10-5 record. Budaj has won six games, and Theodore has won four. Here's a look at successful NHL goalie rotations from the past:
1968-69 St. Louis Blues
Jacques Plante: GP 37, 18-12-6
Glenn Hall: GP 41, 19-12-8
1979-80 Buffalo Sabres
Bob Sauve: GP 32, 20-8-4
Don Edwards: GP 49, 27-9-12
1980-81 New York Islanders
Billy Smith: GP 41, 22-10-8
Chico Resch: GP 32, 18-7-5
1985-86 Edmonton Oilers
Grant Fuhr: GP 40, 29-8-0
Andy Moog: GP 47, 27-9-7
2003-04 Minnesota Wild
Dwayne Roloson: GP 48, 19-18-11
Manny Fernandez: GP 37, 11-14-9
Jose Theodore, who will start in goal for the Avalanche tonight, has won his past three starts. That matches the longest regular-season win streak of his Colorado career. Here is Theodore's previous best stretch with the Avs:
Oct. 29, 2006 vs. Minnesota
4-1 win, 21 shots, 20 saves.
Nov. 1, 2006 at Columbus
5-3 win, 44 shots, 41 saves
Nov. 4, 2006 vs. Vancouver
3-2 win, 38 shots, 36 saves
Theodore had one other three-game win streak in Games 1-3 of the 2006 Western Conference quarterfinals vs. Dallas.
COLORADO AT VANCOUVER
8 p.m. tonight, ALT, KKFN 950 AM
Spotlight on Markus Naslund: A three-time 40-goal scorer, Naslund is off to a decent start with 11 points in 14 games.
But there appears little question that his career is on the decline. He scored 60 points in 82 games last season, considered a big disappointment. His pure goal-scoring ability isn't what it used to be.
Avalanche: The Avs on Thursday acquired goalie Jason Bacashihua from the St. Louis Blues for a conditional seventh-round draft choice in 2008. Bacashihua has played four games with the Peoria Rivermen of the American Hockey League this season. He has played 38 career NHL games with St. Louis, compiling a 7-17-4 record. He was assigned by the Avs to Lake Erie of the AHL. ... The Avs suffered their only home loss of the season to Vancouver on Saturday. ... Jose Theodore will get the start in goal for Colorado.
Canucks: The Canucks played at Calgary on Thursday night, their first game since Saturday's win in Denver. After tonight's game, the Canucks won't play again until Wednesday. "I wouldn't say it bothers us, but as a goalie, personally, I would prefer to play every couple of days just to stay in that rhythm," goalie Roberto Luongo told the Vancouver Sun. "But at the same time, it's good in a way, so you can get some good work done in practice and work on some stuff that needs to be improved. You can look at it either way."