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
12/21 10:31:32 ET