The Colorado Avalanche have been one of the surprise teams in this young NHL season, winning all six road games they have played en route to a 6-2 record and first place in the Northwest Division. They can extend that divisional advantage against their rivals, the Calgary Flames.
Calgary has not had an ideal start to their season. Last year, the Flames had an incredible second half run to close within a playoff berth, only to fall short. It appears they'll need another one to see the postseason this year -- if they don't start trading away key pieces. Star forward Rene Bourque has turned into a hot name on the trade market, as many teams would love to acquire his goal scoring abilities on the wing, including Colorado.
Why have the Flames struggled to the bottom of the standings? Offense. Though 10 Flames players have scored a goal this season, only Rene Bourque, Curtis Glencross, and Jarome Iginla have lit the lamp more than once. Their defense has been solid, and Mikka Kiprusoff has been great, but they don't have the top-tier offensive talent to overcome a poor game. With few impact players coming through their system, it may be time for Calgary to start flipping current (expensive) assets for prospects. Last season's late run may prevent this line of thinking, but the Flames simply haven't had great success in the Jarome Iginla Era.
Colorado, by comparison, has enjoyed excellent offensive output this season. Their 26 goals ranks 3rd in the NHL, and the power play and penalty kill both rank in the top 10 in the league. 11 Avalanche players have scored a goal, and six have scored multiple goals -- led by David Jones and rookie Gabriel Landeskog, who have combined for nine goals. This early success has happened even with the struggles of star center Matt Duchene. In practice this week, Duchene was playing on the fourth line and has been under fire for his lack of on-ice production.
Puck drops at 8:00 p.m. MDT.
For more coverage, visit our Avalanche blog Mile High Hockey or our Flames blog Matchsticks and Gasoline.