Tonight is the third of four meetings between the Wings and Avs this season. The season series is tied at one win apiece. February 5, the Wings beat the Avs 3-2 OT in the Pepsi Center. Curtis Joseph got the start and gave up two goals on the Avs’ first three shots. Brett Hull notched the game winner on the power play in overtime. As you recall, this was the controversial ending where the Avs were called for two high-sticks in the last minute of play. Steve Konowalchuk got four minutes for drawing blood on a high-stick on Kris Draper, and Adam Foote caught the Captain in the mouth with a high-stick off the final regulation faceoff, giving the Wings a 5-on-3 in overtime and rearranging a few of Yzeman’s chicklets. Avs fans were frustrated that the referees let most anything go in the third period up until those calls. They had something to argue on the Draper high-stick, which seemed pretty weak, but the shot on Yzerman clearly warranted a penalty. As the Wings exited the ice victorious, Avs fans littered the ice with garbage in their frustration. February 14, the Wings lost to the Avs 5-2 in the Joe. Manny Legace got the start, and the Avs got four unanswered goals from the end of the second through the third. Jiri Fischer and Steve Yzerman scored the Wings’ only goals.
The Wings are 1-2-1 on this road trip, and 8-3-2 in their last thirteen decisions. They are coming off a 5-2 loss to the Sharks Tuesday night. In the game, Manny Legace got the start after Cujo tweaked his already-sore ankle in pregame warmups. Pavel Datsyuk and Jiri Fischer had the Wings’ only goals, and rising start Jonathan Cheechoo had two goals for the Sharks. The Wings are tied for league lead with Tampa Bay at 99 points, and lead Avs/San Jose by five points in the West. This away-home series with the Avs is extremely important in the Wings’ efforts to clinch the Western Conference title. It is a possible eight-point swing going to Denver or Detroit. The Wings have had the Central Division locked up since their 1-1 tie at Phoenix March 18.
The Avs are 5-4-1-0 in their last ten decisions, and have clinched a playoff spot, with a three point lead over the floundering Canucks (3-4-2-1 in their last ten) in the Northwest Division. They are coming off a 2-2 tie with Chicago. It was Tommy Salo’s second start with the Avs since the deal that brought him to the mile-high city. In the game, Blackhawk Tyler Arnason tied the game at 2 with a late goal at 18:20. This made the Avs 0-3-1 in their last four games, the Avs having lost three straight away games in Canada (Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto). The Avs are looking to lock up their division and then catch the Wings. With back-to-back games against the Wings, the Avs have their chance this weekend.
Kirk Maltby should be back with the team for tonight’s game in Denver. He was in Detroit to attend the birth of his first child, daughter Ella, Monday night. Mathieu Schneider is still out with a groin/hip injury. He will take a light skate today and is unlikely to make the start tonight. Things have taken a turn for the worst with Cujo. After tweaking his already-sore ankle in warmups Tuesday night, Coach Dave Lewis sounds concerned about his number one’s status:
“He (Joseph) can’t play. His ankle is not strong enough to play. Before he can play, his ankle has to be more stable. … I don’t think it’s fair to him, or the team (to jump into the playoffs). You have to get practice, and games, and right now we’re running out of games. If Curtis is injured, Manny will be the guy.”
He will have an MRI on his right ankle tomorrow, and it is possible that he will be unavailabe come the start of the playoffs. Joseph weighed in on his nagging ankle injury:
“Usually, when I feel it, it’s just like a 30-second thing and then it goes away. This didn’t go away for a little bit. But eventually it did.”
Manny Legace will make the start tonight, with Marc Lamothe recalled as his backup.