Colorado Avalanche Head to Mumps Center, Pittsburgh


Colorado Avalanche fans have probably had this date circled on their calender for awhile. The Avalanche only play the Pittsburgh Penguins twice a year, so the Avs Nation doesn’t get to see our boys pit themselves against the big names of Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin too often. Indeed, last season the game in Colorado came near the end of the season, and the game sold out. Alas, then head coach Dan Bylsma sat out Crosby and Malkin to rest them up for the playoffs.

Well, this game takes on significance for new reasons — and getting to see superstars is pretty low on the list.


Spread of the (Mumps) Plague

Sidney Crosby had the mumps, and once it happens to Sidney Crosby, it’s real in the NHL world. So far, 15 players have been confirmed to have contracted the mumps, and everyone knows a few St. Louis Blues players had the illness back in October.

Recently, Penguins forward Beau Bennett was diagnosed with the mumps. Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury along with defensemen Olli Maatta and Robert Bortuzzo became ill and were tested for the mumps.

Knock-on-wood, no one on the Avalanche has appeared to show symptoms. As for Crosby, he skated on Wednesday. He may or may not be in the lineup against the Avalanche.

Winning Streak

The Avalanche need one, a winning streak. They have only 10 wins in 30 games. Luckily they’ve squeezed out some overtime points, so they have 27 on the season so far, but that’s not even 500 hockey.

Avalanche center John Mitchell — who hasn’t been cleared to play yet but has gone on the trip — has made it clear what he wants for the team — three wins during their three-game road trip. Heaven knows the Avalanche need it.

The Penguins, despite being on the top of their Metropolitan Division, have been pretty up and down lately. Literally all of December has been win one, lose one. They’re coming off of a win against the Tampa Bay Lightning, so let’s hope that pattern continues.

Keys to the Game

Return of the Avalanche Players

Defenseman Brad Stuart is supposed to play in the game against the Penguins. He has been out for five weeks with a hamstring injury. Yesterday he was cleared to play.

Mitchell, forwards Jesse Winchester and Patrick Bordeleau and goalie Semyon Varlamov were supposed to go on the trip with the Avs. However, head coach Patrick Roy hadn’t stated when they might play. Rookie forward Dennis Everberg returned to the lineup in the game against the St. Louis Blues.

It’ll be key to see how the return of some of these players affects the team. Stuart started out on the top defensive pairing with Erik Johnson, but he eventually got moved. Winchester is supposed to be a depth player on the fourth line. Bordeleau is known for being an enforcer and energy player.

Superstar Rookie Goalie

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  • See that young goalie with the sparkle in his eye and slightly cocky grin? That’s this year’s superstar rookie, Calvin Pickard. He had to step into his first NHL game when both Varlamov and backup Reto Berra were injured, and he hasn’t looked back since.

    He has the best goals against average, 2.42, and save percentage, .927, of the three goalies on the team. He’s faced a ridiculous 313 shots in those games, averaging 31 shots a game — but facing as many as 42.

    Pickard keeps the Avalanche in the game every night. If they can get their offense going, he’s going to give them the chance to win.

    On the other side, it doesn’t look like starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury will play. He’s played in 23 games and has an impressive 2.10 goals against average and the exact same save percentage as Pickard. His backup, Thomas Greiss, is slightly less impressive, 2.52 goals against and .919 save percentage in seven games.

    Who’s Hot, Who’s Not


    Now that Crosby is no longer feverish, he’s probably not hot, right? Here’s to hoping that, if he plays, he doesn’t really have his game legs.

    The Colorado Avalanche top-six continues to struggle. Their top points producer, Matt Duchene, has only 20 points in 30 games, 10 of them goals. By contrast, Malkin has 37 points in 30 games, 15 of them goals. Colorado’s top two lines have to produce.


    On the flip side, Colorado defensemen are producing. Tyson Barrie is tied with Matt Duchene for points, though only three of them goals. Erik Johnson has twice that many goals, especially thanks to his two tallies against the St. Louis Blues. Indeed, he was the only Avalanche player to score in that game.

    The Pittsburgh Penguins are hosting the Avalanche in the Consol Energy Center. The game starts at 5:00 pm MST.