Before tonight's game, I wanted to take a look at how the Northwest Division is shaping up in the early part of this season. After the game tonight, the Avs will have 15 games against divisional opponents over the course of the next few weeks. This is a critical time.
1. Minnesota (3-0)
2. Colorado (2-1)
3. Edmonton (2-2)
4. Vancouver (1-2)
5. Calgary (0-2-1)
Minnesota: The class of the division early on, the biggest positive for Minnesota is that their star players are performing. Brian Rolston leads the team in points, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Brent Burns, Marion Gaborik, and Pavel Demitra all have two or more points. There's not one 'minus' player on this team, and that's a testament to their goaltending, which has only allowed two goals in three games.
Edmonton: Picked by many to be a bottom feeder in the West, Edmonton has had some problems with consistency early on. Still, they are clearly in a rebuilding mode and a 2-2 start is nothing to shake your head at. After trading away Jason Smith, Sheldon Souray and Joni Pitkanen are left to anchor the first line. (Check out their 2007 +/-) Dwayne Roloson and Mattieu Garon have both gotten a win, with Roloson playing pretty well in his three games. (.922 save percentage.) Big signing Dustin Penner has two points in four games. Oilers fans might riot.
Vancouver: A surprisingly bad start just got worse last night with an 8-2 blowout against Philadelphia. Vancouver's biggest problem will be scoring goals, as Markus Naslund has been on a gradual decline since the lockout. On the plus side, the Sedin twins have played very well, leading the team in points. The Nucks are also 0-2 at home to start the season, which is obviously never good for a team hoping to contend for the Cup.
Ugly Stat: Kevin Bieska is an awful -6 after just three games.
Calgary: Sitting at the bottom of the division is Calgary, the team many experts picked to win it. Don't look to much into this start, as the Flames are too talented not to play well later on this season. The real problem is dealing with Mike Keennan and all of his mind games if the team continues to underpeform. The big players are performing, but with 7 goals scored agaisnt 14 goals allowed, it'll be a struggle all season.
The Avs play tonight at 8:30 EST....lets get a victory!
Jesse Boulerice, of the Philadelphia Flyers, has been suspended for 25 games by the NHL today, after he cross-checked Ryan Kessler away from the play. The suspension ties an NHL record for longest on-ice NHL supensions. (Chris Simon also received 25 games last year.)