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Game Recap: Avalanche 4, Red Wings 2

*grumbly profanities*

A strong start wasn’t enough to hold off a very determined Avalanche team, and the Red Wings’ winning streak ends at 7 with a 4-2 loss at the Pepsi Center.

1st period: The Red Wings started off with a lot of jump and some good scoring chances. Chris Conner got in on a shorthanded breakaway try with Kyle Quincey in the box for cross checking, but Semyon Varlamov managed to close off his five hole just in time. Johan Franzen got the Wings on the board with a power play goal with just under five to go in the period. Pavel Datsyuk carried towards the net, then confused the Avs with a deke and drop pass to Franzen, who was left wide open with an empty net to shoot at.

2nd period: Apparently the Avalanche took some Captain America Super Soldier Serum during the break or something, because they came out as a completely different team. Also, the Red Wings apparently took Ambien during the break, because they also looked like a completely different team. Ryan O’Reilly put Colorado on the board just 26 seconds into the period when Ian White lost control of the puck (as it was passed to his skates instead of his stick), and O’Reilly was able to put the puck high over Ty Conklin. The Avs moved into the lead with a power play goal by Paul Stastny a short time later. Justin Abdelkader’s clearing attempt was intercepted by Matt Duchene. Conklin had slid out of position, the Avalanche crashed the net, and Stastny was able to slam it home. Henrik Zetterberg came within centimeters of a goal later in the period, but it rang off the post. That was pretty much all the noteworthy offense the Wings were able to muster in the 2nd, as they were outshot 19 to 4 by the Avalanche.

3rd period: Detroit got a power play early and didn’t score on it, but they did look far better than they had before the break, keeping possession of the puck and actually getting some scoring chances. Danny Cleary tied the game with a deflection of a Zetterberg backhand just five minutes in, but T.J. Galiardi took the wind out of the Red Wings’ sails with a shorthanded goal moments later. Drew Miller and Darren Helm got crossed up near the blue line and Galiardi intercepted the puck and made the shot before Conklin had a chance to get over. O’Reilly put up the final tally with an empty net goal with 44 seconds left in the game.

Notes: Valtteri Filppula left the game in the first period after an apparent slew foot by David Jones (no penalty was called in game). The Freep is reporting that Filppula’s leg was cut and he’s currently day to day. More to follow as more info is released… Stastny left the game in the third period with a reported torso injury.

Next game: The Wings take on the Blues on Tuesday in St. Louis. 7:30 PM start, and this game will be on Versus, not FSD, so adjust your DVRs accordingly.

Game Preview: Red Wings at Avalanche, 8:00 PM

It’s hard to not be excited for a Detroit/Colorado matchup. This was THE premier rivalry of the 90s and early 2000s. But you all know that. Ah, the days when a minor faceoff could result in a total donnybrook, complete with goalie fights!

The last mid-season on-ice brawl between the Wings and Avs was in March of 2002. Kirk Maltby was shoved into Patrick Roy’s net, Roy started punching the hell out of Maltby, and all hell broke loose. Even Dominik Hasek got in on the proceedings, skating all the way down the ice with his fists clenched, only to slip on an errant glove or stick and slide into Roy, knocking Goalie Enemy #1 into his own net. Granted, the referees separated the two before much damage could be done, and it doesn’t hold a candle to Mike Vernon’s 1997 beatdown of Roy or Chris Osgood’s 1998 pummeling of Roy, but I still fondly remember the refs holding the two legendary goalies back as they screamed profane insults at each other in Czech and French.

I have full faith that either Jimmy Howard or Ty Conklin (particularly Howard, who’s shown himself to be, let us say, a feisty goaltender) could take either Semyon Varlamov or Jean-Sebastien Giguere in a rumble, but I don’t think we’ll see it tonight. The bad blood between the two teams has died down considerably over the last few years as players have moved on or retired, and the “rivalry” has become notoriously one-sided. Its real last gasp was the epic seven game Western Conference Finals in 2002. I pinpoint the moment the rivalry died as Roy giving up the infamous Statue of Liberty goal in Game 6. After that, Game 7 was nothing more than harvesting the organs. The competition has never been the same since. The Wings have stayed relevant in the playoff race every single season thereafter. The Avalanche, well, haven’t.

The Red Wings will be starting Conklin tonight, finally giving Howard a rest after 17 consecutive starts. Conk’s last game at the Pepsi Center was a 3-0 shutout on October 8th, so Mike Babcock is hoping for a repeat of that performance to get Conklin back in the rotation after two subsequent miserable performances leading to him being benched for Howard ever since. Babcock, not being one to change a formula that’s been working, plans no further changes to the lineup from last game. Cory Emmerton and Mike Commodore will be healthy scratches. The first line of Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, and Todd Bertuzzi, and the second line of Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula, and Jiri Hudler, hope to continue the magnificent offensive chemistry they’ve developed over the last several games.

For the Avalanche, Varlamov will start in goal. The Avs could be looking at the return of defenseman Erik Johnson tonight from a groin injury; he’ll be a game time decision. Colorado comes in to this game on a two game winning streak, having defeated the St. Louis Blues in a 3-2 shootout win on Friday. Coach Joe Sacco has created a bit of danger in the offense by moving veteran Milan Hejduk to Ryan O’Reilly’s line, so look for Babcock to be careful about which lines and defensive pairings he has out there.

The key to winning tonight for Detroit? I know it’s a total hockey cliche, but they’ve got to play the full 60 minutes. They’ve been totally dominant in first periods, outscoring opponents 10 goals to 1 over the last seven games, but third periods? Not so much. The other issue is goaltending. Conklin is likely to have some bench rust, and he probably doesn’t feel too much confidence right now. The Wings defense will need to give him extra help that Howard hasn’t needed until he’s made a few saves and gets his goalie groove back. Even if Conklin is shaky, if the Wings’ surging offense led by Franzen and the surprising Filppula can keep things going, we should see the boys head out of the Pepsi Center with a win.

Let’s go, Red Wings! *clap clap clapclapclap*