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Penguins vs. Avalanche Game Preview

Tuesday, 02.15.2011 / 8:30 PM / Features
By Michelle Crechiolo
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Penguins vs. Avalanche Game Preview
Pittsburgh Penguins
Overall:
35-19-4-72
Home: 20-10-1-41
Road: 15-9-3-33

WHEN: Feb. 16, 2011 - 9:00 pm   |   WHERE: Pepsi Center
WATCH:
FSN  |  LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM
Colorado Avalanche
Overall:
25-26-6-56
Home: 14-14-3-31
Road:
11-12-3-25

  Pittsburgh Penguins at Colorado Avalanche 
 
      
Milan Hejduk
RW  -  #23
  17 Goals
  28 Assists
  45 Points
• Has piled up 15 points (9G-6A) in 14 games against Pittsburgh despite playing for the Avalanche organization in the Western Conference for his entire career to date.

• The prolific goal scorer, now in his 11th full NHL season, has tallied at least 21 goals in each of his previous 10 seasons – it’s the second-longest streak among active players behind only Jarome Iginla (12 including this year).

• His most productive season came in 2002-03, when he became the franchise’s first player to win the “Rocket” Richard Trophy (leading goal scorer) after notching 50 goals and 98 points.
 
Paul Stastny
C  -  #26
  17 Goals
  27 Assists
  44 Points
• Had an outstanding rookie season in 2006-07, notching 78 points (28G-50A) through 82 games with the Avalanche and finishing second in Calder Trophy (best rookie) voting behind Evgeni Malkin.

• The outstanding playmaker topped that point total by one last season, when he led the team in scoring with a career-high 59 assists and 79 points.

• The faceoff specialist ranks third in the league with 1,158 draws taken – he ranked second last season with a total 1,703, behind only Sidney Crosby.
 
John-Michael Liles
D  -  #4
  6 goals
  29 assists
  35 points
• Makes up for his smaller stature (5-foot-10, 185 pounds) with his skating ability and nose for the net, as he’s the highest-scoring defenseman in franchise history with 264 points.

• The Indianapolis, Ind. native, who paces the Avs in blocked shots (106) and is second (tied) on the team in shots (132), is one of six U.S.-born defensemen to record 30-plus points in each of their first seven seasons.

• Opened the 2010-11 campaign with assists in each of his first nine games, setting a new NHL record for the longest assist streak by a defenseman to start a season.
The Avalanche enter Wednesday’s tilt with the Penguins having lost eight-consecutive games in regulation and with a 1-10 record in their last 11 games. It’s their worst such skid since the franchise relocated to Colorado from Quebec in time for the 1995-96 season, and leaves the team’s postseason hopes in jeopardy, as they currently reside in 14th place in the Western Conference – 10 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot – after a 9-1 loss at the hands of Calgary on Monday.

The Avalanche, led by second-year head coach Joe Sacco, seemed poised to build off their remarkable return to the playoffs last season after finishing last in the Western Conference in 2008-09. They entered 2011 with a respectable 20-13-5 record through their first 38 games, including a six-game winning streak from Dec. 10-19. But much like the Penguins, the Avalanche have been ravaged by injuries as of late.

They had already been down two offensive dynamos entering Monday’s game, with Tomas Fleischmann suffering a season-ending pulmonary emboli on Jan. 20. Fleischmann, who had been acquired from Washington on Nov. 30, netted 21 points (8G-13A) in his 22 games for the Avalanche while on a line with sophomore sensation Matt Duchene. Prior to that, Peter Mueller, acquired from Phoenix at the trade deadline last season, suffered a head injury in a preseason game that has kept him from seeing game action this season. He had netted 20 points (9G-11A) in 15 games last season  with Colorado upon his arrival (see Injury Report for full list).

Now the Avalanche will have to soldier on without leading scorer Duchene. The Avalanche’s most complete player left Monday’s tilt in the second period with a hand injury and it was announced Wednesday morning that he will be out indefinitely. But even without Duchene in the lineup, the Avalanche still have the quiet leadership of Milan Hejduk and the consistent play of All-Star Paul Stastny.  Hejduk’s quick hands and immense speed keep him as one of the league’s top scorers at 35 years old, while Stastny’s strengths lie in his playmaking ability and durability.

On the back end, their goaltending tandem of Craig Anderson and Peter Budaj has been struggling to find consistency. The two have combined to allow 35 goals over the last eight games, while Colorado’s offense has only produced 12 goals in that span. Anderson has compiled a 13-15-3 record, while Budaj has backstopped his way to a 12-11-3 record.
  • Colorado Avalanche forward Peter Forsberg announced his retirement from the game of hockey prior to Monday’s game. Forsberg, 37, who hadn't played in the league since the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs, had attempted a comeback and played in the Avalanche’s two contests over the weekend. But ultimately, he could not overcome a troublesome right foot that has plagued him over the years.
  • It’s fitting Forsberg was able to retire as a member of the Avalanche, the franchise he had captured two Stanley Cups (1996, 2001) over his 12 seasons with the team. Forsberg won the Calder Trophy (best rookie) in 1995 and the Hart Trophy (MVP) and Art Ross Trophy (leading scorer) in 2003. He retires with 885 points (249G-636A) in 708 regular-season games with Quebec, Colorado, Philadelphia and Nashville. He’s 10th all-time in points-per-game (1.25) and is the fourth-highest scoring Swedish-born player in NHL history.
  • Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato served two stints each as head coach and also worked as an assistant coach for the Avalanche from 2002-09. He began his coaching career as an assistant in 2002 before being named head coach on Dec. 18, 2002. Granato served as head coach of the Avalanche from 2002-04 and again from 2008-09, serving as an assistant coach in between. In 352 games as head coach, Granato posted an overall record of 215-104-33 (658 pct.). He led the Avalanche to a Northwest Division title in 2003.
  • Pittsburgh is looking for its first win in Colorado since Feb. 25, 1999, when it defeated the Avalanche, 3-2. In that game the Penguins overcame a 2-1 deficit entering the third period on goals by Jaromir Jagr and Martin Straka. The Penguins are 0-5-0 since then at Pepsi Center.
  • Pittsburgh won the only meeting between the teams last season, defeating Colorado by a score of 4-1 on Dec. 3, 2009 at Mellon Arena. The Penguins’ ‘Big Four’ led the way to victory as Sidney Crosby tallied twice and added an assist, Jordan Staal notched a goal and an assist, Evgeni Malkin added three helpers and Marc-Andre Fleury denied 15 of 16 shots to record the win.
  • The Penguins enter tonight’s game having scored at least one power-play goal in six of the previous 10 games. During that stretch the Penguins are 8-for-41 (19.5 percent). Over their past seven road games the Penguins are clicking at a 36-percent clip (9-for-25) on the man-advantage.

 

      
Stay Out Of The Box: The Penguins’ top-ranked penalty kill allowed the Rangers to score three power-play goals in Pittsburgh’s 5-3 loss to New York on Sunday, the first time all season they’ve let an opponent tally thrice on the man advantage (and just the fourth time this season they’ve allowed more than one power-play goal in a game). With their extraordinarily depleted lineup, the Penguins have scored just nine times over their past five games and can’t afford to be down a man against teams.

Clamp Down Defensively: The Rangers’ other two even-strength goals on Sunday came when their players managed to sneak unnoticed behind the Penguins defense. The Avalanche may be in the offensive doldrums, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t poised for an explosion at any time – especially with a sniper like Milan Hejduk in their lineup. Pittsburgh will need to keep their heads on a swivel around this desperate Colorado squad that’s looking to snap out of their funk, while keeping in mind that the Avalanche are now 0-22-2 on the season when scoring two goals or less.
F Arron Asham, upper body (IR)
F Mike Comrie, hip (IR)
F Sidney Crosby, concussion (IR)
F Dustin Jeffrey, lower body (IR)
F Chris Kunitz, lower body (IR)
F Mark Letestu, lower body (IR)
F Evgeni Malkin, torn ACL and torn MCL (will miss remainder of season)
F Eric Tangradi, concussion-like symptoms (indefinitely)

Kyle Cuminsky, whiplash (indefinitely)
Matt Duchene, hand (indefinitely)
Tomas Fleischmann, pulmonary emboli (will miss remainder of season)
Adam Foote, leg (at least one week)
T.J. Galiardi, forearm (6-8 weeks)
Jonas Holos, head (indefinitely)
Peter Mueller, head (indefinitely)
Kyle Quincey, shoulder (will miss remainder of season)
 
 
 
 
G
Crosby (32) Duchene (21)
A
Letang (36) Liles (29)
PTS
Crosby (66) Duchene (47)
PIM
Cooke (106) McLeod (126)
+/-
Crosby (+20) Holos (+6)
PP
Crosby (10) Hejduk (7)
SH
Three tied with (2)
Mauldin (3)
W/L
Fleury (26-14-2)
Budaj (12-11-3)
GAA
Johnson (2.27) Budaj (3.19)
SVP
Johnson (.917) Anderson (.897)

Brett Sterling - Sterling has notched a point in all three games he’s played with Pittsburgh since being re-called from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Feb. 10. He scored 6:53 into the first period of his Pittsburgh debut on Feb. 10 against Los Angeles, a goal that would prove to be clutch as the Penguins eventually won in overtime by a score of 2-1. Sterling then proceeded to earn his first assist of the season on Feb. 11 against the New York Islanders before netting his second goal in three games – a power-play marker – against the New York Rangers on Sunday. Prior to his recall, he had 18 goals and 39 points in 46 games with WBS.
 
Kevin Porter - Porter has three points in his past two games. He had a fantastic outing in his team’s 5-3 loss to Nashville on Feb. 12, scoring a goal and adding an assist for a two-point effort, with his tally coming when he forced a turnover in the neutral zone. Porter went on to add an assist on the Avalanche’s lone goal in their 9-1 defeat to Calgary on Monday. He’s already set career highs in games (48), goals (10), assists (seven) and points (17), and shares the team lead with three of his tallies being game-winners.
 
 
 
 

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WHEN: Feb. 16, 2011 - 9:00 pm
WHERE: Pepsi Center
WATCH: FSN
LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM



SCOUTING REPORT

The Avalanche enter Wednesday's tilt with the Penguins having lost eight-consecutive games in regulation and with a 1-10 record in their last 11 games. It's their worst such skid since the franchise relocated to Colorado from Quebec in time for the 1995-96 season, and leaves the team's postseason hopes in jeopardy, as they currently reside in 14th place in the Western Conference – 10 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot – after a 9-1 loss at the hands of Calgary on Monday.

The Avalanche, led by second-year head coach Joe Sacco, seemed poised to build off their remarkable return to the playoffs last season after finishing last in the Western Conference in 2008-09. They entered 2011 with a respectable 20-13-5 record through their first 38 games, including a six-game winning streak from Dec. 10-19. But much like the Penguins, the Avalanche have been ravaged by injuries as of late.

They had already been down two offensive dynamos entering Monday's game, with Tomas Fleischmann suffering a season-ending pulmonary emboli on Jan. 20. Fleischmann, who had been acquired from Washington on Nov. 30, netted 21 points (8G-13A) in his 22 games for the Avalanche while on a line with sophomore sensation Matt Duchene. Prior to that, Peter Mueller, acquired from Phoenix at the trade deadline last season, suffered a head injury in a preseason game that has kept him from seeing game action this season. He had netted 20 points (9G-11A) in 15 games last season with Colorado upon his arrival (see Injury Report for full list).

Now it seems the Avalanche may have to soldier on without leading scorer Duchene. The Avalanche's most complete player left Monday's tilt in the third period with a hand injury and has been officially listed as day-to-day. But if Duchene can't play Wednesday, the Avalanche still have the quiet leadership of Milan Hejduk and the consistent play of All-Star Paul Stastny. Hejduk's quick hands and immense speed keep him as one of the league's top scorers at 35 years old, while Stastny's strengths lie in his playmaking ability and durability.

On the back end, their goaltending tandem of Craig Anderson and Peter Budaj has been struggling to find consistency. The two have combined to allow 35 goals over the last eight games, while Colorado's offense has only produced 12 goals in that span. Anderson has compiled a 13-15-3 record, while Budaj has backstopped his way to a 12-11-3 record.


INTERESTING STATS

* Colorado Avalanche forward Peter Forsberg announced his retirement from the game of hockey prior to Monday's game. Forsberg, 37, who hadn't played in the league since the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs, had attempted a comeback and played in the Avalanche's two contests over the weekend. But ultimately, he could not overcome a troublesome right foot that has plagued him over the years. * It's fitting Forsberg was able to retire as a member of the Avalanche, the franchise he had captured two Stanley Cups (1996, 2002) over his 12 seasons with the team. Forsberg won the Calder Trophy (best rookie) in 1995 and the Hart Trophy (MVP) and Art Ross Trophy (leading scorer) in 2003. He retires with 885 points (249G-636A) in 708 regular-season games with Quebec, Colorado, Philadelphia and Nashville. He's 10th all-time in points-per-game (1.25) and is the fourth-highest scoring Swedish-born player in NHL history.

* Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato served two stints each as head coach and also worked as an assistant coach for the Avalanche from 2002-09. He began his coaching career as an assistant in 2002 before being named head coach on Dec. 18, 2002. Granato served as head coach of the Avalanche from 2002-04 and again from 2008-09, serving as an assistant coach inbetween. In 352 games as head coach, Granato posted an overall record of 215-104-33 (658 pct.). He led the Avalanche to a Northwest Division title in 2003.

* Pittsburgh is looking for its first win in Colorado since Feb. 25, 1999, when it defeated the Avalanche, 3-2. In that game the Penguins overcame a 2-1 deficit entering the third period on goals by Jaromir Jagr and Martin Straka. The Penguins are 0-5-0 since then at Pepsi Center.

* Pittsburgh won the only meeting between the teams last season, defeating Colorado by a score of 4-1 on Dec. 3, 2009 at Mellon Arena. The Penguins' ‘Big Four' led the way to victory as Sidney Crosby tallied twice and added an assist, Jordan Staal notched a goal and an assist, Evgeni Malkin added three helpers and Marc-Andre Fleury denied 15 of 16 shots to record the win.

* The Penguins enter tonight's game having scored at least one power-play goal in six of the previous 10 games. During that stretch the Penguins are 8-for-41 (19.5 percent). Over their past seven road games the Penguins are clicking at a 36-percent clip (9-for-25) on the man-advantage.


KEYS TO THE GAME

Stay Out Of The Box: The Penguins' top-ranked penalty kill allowed the Rangers to score three power-play goals in Pittsburgh's 5-3 loss to New York on Sunday, the first time all season they've let an opponent tally thrice on the man advantage (and just the fourth time this season they've allowed more than one power-play goal in a game). With their extraordinarily depleted lineup, the Penguins have scored just nine times over their past five games and can't afford to be down a man against teams.

Clamp Down Defensively: The Rangers' other two even-strength goals on Sunday came when their players managed to sneak unnoticed behind the Penguins defense. The Avalanche may be in the offensive doldrums, but that doesn't mean they aren't poised for an explosion at any time – especially with a sniper like Milan Hejduk in their lineup. Pittsburgh will need to keep their heads on a swivel around this desperate Colorado squad that's looking to snap out of their funk, while keeping in mind that the Avalanche are now 0-22-2 on the season when scoring two goals or less.


WHO'S HOT

Brett Sterling - Sterling has notched a point in all three games he's played with Pittsburgh since being re-called from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Feb. 10. He scored 6:53 into the first period of his Pittsburgh debut on Feb. 10 against Los Angeles, a goal that would prove to be clutch as the Penguins eventually won in overtime by a score of 2-1. Sterling then proceeded to earn his first assist of the season on Feb. 11 against the New York Islanders before netting his second goal in three games – a power-play marker – against the New York Rangers on Sunday. Prior to his recall, he had 18 goals and 39 points in 46 games with WBS.

Kevin Porter - Porter has three points in his past two games. He had a fantastic outing in his team's 5-3 loss to Nashville on Feb. 12, scoring a goal and adding an assist for a two-point effort, with his tally coming when he forced a turnover in the neutral zone. Porter went on to add an assist on the Avalanche's lone goal in their 9-1 defeat to Calgary on Monday. He's already set career highs in games (48), goals (10), assists (seven) and points (17), and shares the team lead with three of his tallies being game-winners.



Author: Michelle Crechiolo
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