The Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche have been two of the NHL’s elite teams for nearly a decade.
This season is no exception.
Detroit and Colorado will be battling for the NHL’s best record when they meet for the first time in 2003-04 in the final game before the All-Star break for both teams.
Either the Avalanche or the Red Wings have won the Stanley Cup in five of the past eight seasons, and both are among the favorites to win this year. Colorado has a league-leading 72 points with two games in hand on Detroit, which is tied for second in the NHL with 70 points.
Colorado has been nearly unbeatable lately, going eight straight games without a regulation loss (5-0-2-1) while earning a point in 17 of 18 contests (13-1-2-2). Despite their strong play, the Avalanche are just two points ahead of Vancouver in the Northwest Division.
Goaltending figured to be the biggest weakness for Colorado this season, but David Aebischer has answered his critics.
Aebischer stopped 36 shots and Steve Konowalchuk and Steve Moore scored second-period goals Tuesday, lifting the Avalanche to a 3-1 victory over visiting Carolina.
Aebischer, among the league leaders with a 2.05 goals-against average, has allowed two goals or fewer in 10 of his last 14 games.
“Pretty much from Day One of the season, he has been consistent in his play,” Avalanche coach Tony Granato said. “That is why he has as many wins as he does, and that is why his numbers are as good as they are.”
Colorado has several players capable of carrying the team offensively and lately, center Peter Forsberg has been doing it. Forsberg had 10 goals and 13 assists during a 12-game point streak which ended Tuesday.
Detroit, the league’s best home team, needed a 4-1 victory at Nashville on Tuesday to even its road record at 11-11-5-2.
Brett Hull, Brendan Shanahan and Kirk Maltby scored in the first 6:17 of the second period, and Manny Legace stopped 23 shots for the Red Wings, 2-0-2 in their last four.
“We’d like to be a little bit better,” Detroit coach Dave Lewis said. “You don’t look at the past. We got another game on the road. We’d like to win that.”
Detroit figured to be set in goal this season with Dominik Hasek, but he hasn’t played since Dec. 8 due to a groin injury. Curtis Joseph and Legace have split time in Hasek’s absence.
Both teams are dealing with injuries to key players. Besides Hasek, the Red Wings are still without defenseman Derian Hatcher, while Colorado could be without defenseman Adam Foote and forward Dan Hinote on Thursday.
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