David, from Mile High Hockey, helps us preview tonight's Stars-Avalanche match:
Q: Can you give us a scouting report on the Avalanche? What have they done well? What has been a struggle?
A: The Avs have been a big surprise this year, even among the Avalanche faithful. The team has been better than expected offensively, but not exceptional in any one category. The biggest problem for the Avalanche has been consistency. Colorado will have a couple of strong games and then lay an egg, as they did on Tuesday night when they were outshot 42-17 by the Ducks and gave up four goals in the final eight minutes.
Q: What has made Paul Stastny so effective this season?
A: Stastny has to be one of the most quietly consistent players in the NHL. He never dazzles and isn't always the best player on the ice. But every game, he seems to find a way to make a big play for the team. He's averaged close to a point a game ever since breaking into the league and plays solid defense to boot.
Q: Which line has played the best lately?
A: The top line has been Stastny, Wojtek Wolski and Chris Stewart and they've been hot with a combined 37 points in 11 games in December. You know about Stastny already. Stewart and Wolski are both former first-round picks who are both finally coming into their own. Each of them are on their way to career years.
Q: Looks like the power play and penalty kill are in the middle of the league. How have those units played?
A: Both have been inconsistent. Special teams has been an issue for the Avalanche for a few seasons now. Both are improved this year, but that's not saying all that much. Both the power play and the penalty kill have had some flashes, but neither has been able to get rolling on a consistent basis. On the power play, the Avalanche have struggled to get pressure from the point. John-Michael Liles and Kyle Quincey have both shown promise, but have been disappointing in this area overall.
Q: Which goalie will play tonight? Tell us about him.
A: Craig Anderson is the presumed starter, as he's played just about every game that he's been healthy for. Anderson has been tremendous at times this year. Statistically, he's not all that much better than Peter Budaj was last year, but Anderson has that swagger that we haven't seen since Patrick Roy retired. Anderson acts like a number one goalie, and I think it makes the team better in front of him. The Avalanche give up a boatload of shots, so expect Anderson to be very busy.
Q: Injury update?
A: Both Marek Svatos and Kyle Cumiskey have been skating recently, but I don't know that either will play tonight. It's too bad that you'll miss Cumiskey, because he has been a blast to watch. He's a small defenseman with electrifying speed. We call him the Road Runner. He's one of several young players who has really blossomed this year. Svatos isn't. While he is known to Stars fans for a key goal in the 2004 playoffs (sorry), he's struggled to put a consistent NHL game together.
Q: Anything else fans should know about Colorado?
A: There are a lot of young, talented players to watch. Stewart and Wolski are playing very well. Matt Duchene has been getting better as the season progresses. Ryan O'Reilly and T.J. Galiardi are a couple of rookie forwards who are strong defensively. One guy not getting a ton of press is unheralded rookie defenseman Ryan Wilson. Wilson went undrafted and was considered a throw-in when the Avalanche got him from the Flames in the Jordan Leopold trade last spring. He had an opportunity this year due to some injuries and he's played well. His ice time is increasing as the season progresses. He's a terrific open-ice hitter; he loves to prey on forwards coming down along the boards.