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Morning Skate: The Avalanche

Detroit took two big wins to open the 2010-2011 season. Tonight, they'll look to keep that mojo going against the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs are 1-1-0 with a opening night win over the Chicago Blackhawks and then a 4-2 loss to Philadelphia last night. In preparation for tonight's game/this post, I watched both of those games and there are quite a few holes in the Colorado gameplan.

  • Jimmy Howard will start his second game of the season. In the season opener, Howard shut out the Ducks 4-0 although he didn't have to make that many big saves. Howard might be tested a little more tonight with the Avalanche but the rest he had should do him good for tonight's game.
  • This will be Ruslan Salei's first game against his former team (the Avalanche) since coming over to Detroit. So far, Salei has been a good addition for the Red Wings and has provided some solid play at both ends of the ice. It should be interesting to see how he plays tonight against his former team, considering he practiced with them last year.
  • Brian Rafalski is going to be out of tonight's line-up it seems and the Wings have called up defenseman Doug Janik. To clear that roster spot, Kris Draper has been named as a short-term IR player because of the problem he has had with his groin. With Rafalski out and Janik in, expect Jakub Kindl to play on the top line with Nicklas Lidstrom while Janik joins Janik will play with Kronwall and Kindl with Salei on the third pairing.
  • Colorado had a lot of trouble dealing with an aggressive forecheck against Philadelphia. It seemed like the pressure was causing the puckcarriers to cough it up quite a bit in their own end. This could be a field day for the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula. The Avs definitely had some trouble getting the puck out of their defensive zone cleanly and it's something Detroit should look to exploit.
  • That being said, once they do get the puck up ice they are pretty quick gaining the offensive zone and pass well in the offensive zone. This team has a lot of offensive talent with Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny, Brandon Yip Chris Stewart and Ryan O'Reilly but it's getting them the space to work that might be their problem as Detroit showed pretty good skill at shutting down Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and
  • Their penalty kill system is another thing Detroit can exploit. The Avs play with a diamond formation (one man in front of the net, one on each side of him and then another out at the point) and the three that play away from the goalie play very aggressively. This allows them to break up the play but it also leaves them vulnerable to passes to players streaking to the slot. Look for Datsyuk or Zetterberg to try and make these passes

    The rest of the preview and key matchups are after the jump.

    Mile High Hockey is your SB Nation source for Avalanche coverage.
  • They also got beat last night for one shorthanded goal and one goal that might as well have been (Jeff Carter scored just seconds after the penalty to Mike Richards expired). Darren Helm has made a name for himself by capitalizing on an opposing team's powerplay flubs and could get some opportunities to do so tonight.
  • On the back end of the ice, the Avs are...pretty bad. I noticed way too many defenders out of position or making bad plays on the puckcarrier . Unless they've just had two bad games, it's not going to be very pretty for them against Detroit. I expect the Eurotwins and guys like Filppula and Hudler to find the seams in this defense and create scoring chances.
  • Craig Anderson will have to be pretty strong tonight if the Avs want to stay in this one. The Avalanche allowed 38 shots to both the Blackhawks and Flyers. You can expect Detroit to put a lot of shots on Anderson and make him work for it since he's their strongest defensive player.
  • Anderson also made the nickname "The Dive" even truer for the Avalanche last night as he got penalized for it in last night's loss.
  • Although it's fun to pick at the Avalanche, I will give them credit for the fact that they have tremendous potential for being a very, very good team in the future. They're loaded with young talent that's fast and willing to play the tough minutes in the game. Their offense is good and will get better, the defense catching up is the next step for them going forward though.
  • Continuing on that, I think the Avalanche will definitely try to utilize that speed they have and try to stretch the Detroit defense. Detroit needs to play solid getting back down the ice to prevent the Avs from getting breakaway chances on Howard.
  • One last thing I noticed, the Avalanche play very physically in the neutral zone and have defensemen that tend to pinch up. If they pinch and miss that hit, it leaves chances going the other way and Detroit needs to be aware of those opportunities and maybe even try to bait defenders and then pass right before a hit.
  • This is unrelated but the Ducks were outshot 53-14 last night against the St. Louis Blues. 53-14. Yikes. Hope Lilja enjoys blocking some shots.
  • Key matchup to watch when Colorado has the puck: Paul Stastny/Chris Stewart vs. Datsyuk/Zetterberg/Lidstrom. Stastny lead the Avalanche in points last year, with 59 of his 79 points coming by way of assist. Stewart was the leading goal scorer so it's important for the Red Wings to slow down this attack and the Detroit trio listed above are more than capable of doing so, they just have to be careful not to leave T.J. Galiardi unmanned in the process.
  • Key matchup to watch when Detroit has the puck: I think this one goes to the second line of Franzen/Filppula-Bertuzzi. They've been very strong in the opening two games as Bertuzzi and Filppula both have 3 points and Franzen with 2. I think Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom is important, but I think that the continued success of the second line is important and could continue tonight.
  • EDITED Detroit lines:
  • Pavel Datsyuk-Henrik Zetterberg-Tomas Holmstrom
    Johan Franzen-Valtteri Filppula-Todd Bertuzzi
    Jiri Hudler-Mike Modano-Dan Cleary
    Drew Miller-Darren Helm-Patrick Eaves

    Nicklas Lidstrom-Brad Stuart
    Doug Janik-Niklas Kronwall
    Jakub Kindl-Ruslan Salei

    Jimmy Howard