Red Wings-Avalanche Preview
The Detroit and Colorado rivalry features many storied chapters, though it fizzled a bit when the Red Wings moved to the Eastern Conference two seasons ago.
The next matchup figures to reignite the fire when the Red Wings and Avalanche meet for the first-ever outdoor game in Colorado on Saturday night at Coors Field as part of the NHL Stadium Series.
The height of this rivalry featured five playoff series from 1996-2002, a stretch during which Detroit won three Stanley Cups and Colorado won two.
The Red Wings (30-20-11) hope they can find the same success at Coors Field that they have across town over the last 15 seasons. Since the 2001-02 season, Detroit is 21-6-1 in Denver, including playoffs. Going back one more season, the Red Wings own a 41-14-8 record overall against the Avalanche.
But Saturday's outdoor game will bring some different variables than a typical NHL contest.
"It's different in a sense that, I don't want to say can go wrong, but there's more things that can happen that are out of your control," Detroit coach Jeff Blashill told the team's official website. "You have to go into the game just being OK with things going awry around you and keeping your focus and continuing to play. I think you have to enjoy the moment, you have to enjoy the whole atmosphere. I'm a big believer in that in life, period."
Detroit hasn't had much to smile about of late, totaling only seven goals during a 1-2-2 stretch.
That includes a winless four-game road trip, which extended Detroit's six-game skid away from home. The Red Wings have been outscored 22-10 during that drought.
However, Detroit avoided a season-high five-game losing streak with Tuesday's 2-1 shootout win over Columbus - the Red Wings' lone home game after their winless trip and before the outdoor game and Monday's visit to Dallas.
Petr Mrazek had his second straight strong performance with 28 saves after surrendering five goals in back-to-back games last week. Mrazek stopped 19 shots in a 2-1 shootout defeat at home to Colorado on Feb. 12. He's 1-0-2 with a 0.95 goals-against average in three career starts against the Avalanche.
The shootout loss extended Detroit's point streak in this series to eight games. The Red Wings are 5-0-3 in the past eight meetings, including three straight wins in Denver.
Colorado (32-27-4) has won five of seven overall with consecutive victories at home following a four-game skid there.
The Avs currently hold the West's final playoff spot with 68 points, and coach Patrick Roy is concerned about the aura that surrounds an outdoor game stealing his team's focus during the postseason push.
"There's a lot of distraction," he told the team's official website. "But at the same time, these are big points for us at this time of the year. It is important to remain focused."
Colorado has allowed an average of 3.31 goals in its last 13 games, and No. 1 goaltender Semyon Varlamov has suffered through his own struggles. Varlamov is 3-4-0 with a 3.32 GAA in his last seven starts.
He is 2-5-0 with a 2.86 GAA in seven career starts against Detroit, though he did make 43 saves in the shootout win earlier this month.