The Colorado Avalanche had mixed results last week. After a poor showing against the Detroit Red Wings earlier in the week, they were redeemed with a three goal overtime comeback against the New York Islanders. Unfortunately, a four goal comeback against the Calgary Flames fell just short as the Avalanche fell to 0-3 against their division rivals (and 0-4 in the Northwest Division).
There is one group of teams that Colorado has had great success against this season; Eastern Conference teams. The Avalanche have a combined 5-0 record against teams from the other conference, and they hope to continue that trend in a nationally televised game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Penguins have played without their captain Sidney Crosby since last February, but you couldn't tell from the current standings. They sit tied atop the Eastern Conference with a 10-4-3 record. Last season's trade acquisition James Neal has been incredible, with a team-leading 11 goals and 17 points. Evgeni Malkin has made some progress from his gruesome knee injury, chipping in 11 points in 10 games. This team is well-rounded, plays excellent defense, and has a goalie that is making a leap towards elite status this season.
Marc-Andre Fleury has been sensational this year. He has started 12 games, has a 9-2-1 record, and a 1.87 GAA. Simply brilliant, and the biggest reason the Penguins are right back atop the Stanley Cup contender list without the services of Crosby.
For the Avalanche, they must start off quickly in this game to have a chance. In three games last week, they faced deficits of 3-0, 3-0, and 4-0. That cannot happen for a team with playoff aspirations. After that rough week, prized trade acquisition Semyon Varlamov has fallen flat. He now has a .897 SV% on the season.
Newly anointed captain Milan Hejduk will take the ice for the first time wearing a "C" on his jersey. Avalanche fans everywhere hope that he can lead Colorado back on the winning track after a rough couple of weeks.
Puck drops at 5:30 p.m. MDT. The game will be nationally broadcast on Versus.