NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Sunday, December 21st (All times eastern)
Colorado Avalanche (16-15-1) at Florida Panthers (14-13-4), 5 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Colorado Avalanche conclude a four-game road trip this evening against a team they have had much road success against, as they visit the Florida Panthers and BankAtlantic Center.
The Avalanche began the eastern trek with a big win in Detroit and then lost the second test in Philadelphia before picking up a controversial 2-1 shootout win in Tampa on Thursday. Milan Hejduk was awarded the game-winning goal during the extra session after officials ruled that Lightning goaltender Mike Smith had thrown his stick in an attempted save.
Hejduk was the fourth skater in the shootout after the first three were unsuccessful, and veered to the left for a backhander. On the play, Smith moved his stick out for the poke check, gripping it near the end of the handle. As he moved to his right for the blocker save, the stick came loose and flew out of his grip.
Despite the protests of Smith and Tampa Bay head coach Rick Tocchet, the call stood and Andrew Raycroft then made a glove save on Martin St. Louis, ending the contest for an Avalanche win. While Smith was upset with the ruling, Colorado head coach Tony Granato said after the game it was the right call.
Raycroft made 37 saves through regulation and overtime for Colorado, which moved to 2-1 on the four-game trip. Paul Stastny tallied the lone regulation goal for the Avs.
The win also saw the return of Ben Guite and Darcy Tucker to the lineup. Guite played for the first time since November 8 due to a rib injury, while Tucker hadn't played since November 24 because of a knee ailment.
No. 1 netminder Peter Budaj should return to net tonight as Colorado tries to improve on its 8-9-1 road record. Budaj has never faced Florida but has allowed at least four goals in three of his last four starts.
Colorado has won four straight and seven of its last eight versus the Panthers, and have won eight straight in Sunrise. All-time, the Avalanche franchise is 11-1-0 versus the Panthers as the visiting team, with their lone loss coming on April 22, 1995 as the Quebec Nordiques.
The Panthers begin a three-game homestand today and are 6-4-2 as the host but just 1-1-2 in their last four at BankAtlantic Center.
After winning the first three games of a five-game road trip, Florida lost the final two games. That includes a 2-1 overtime loss to Carolina on Thursday.
The Hurricanes' Joe Corvo scored on a sensational individual effort with 44 seconds remaining in overtime, taking a pass from Ray Whitney at the top of the slot. He then wound up for a shot, but fell to the ice after making contact with a Florida defender. He recovered though, and skated the puck into the left circle, cutting between two defenders, before lifting a backhander past Tomas Vokoun, who made 35 saves in the tough-luck loss.
Former Carolina skater Cory Stillman registered the lone goal for Florida in his second game back after missing time due to concussion symptoms. It marked his first goal since October 24 and he has six goals and four assists in 15 games this season.
Vokoun is 7-9-1 with a tie and 3.18 goals against average lifetime versus Colorado.
12/21 10:31:32 ET