Coach Joe Sacco has once again shuffled the Avs' top lines in hopes to restore some offense into the lineup. In their 5 losses, the Avs have averaged exactly 1 goal a game. The first month of the season has seen an Avalanche team with solid goaltending and a much improved defensive corps, but whose offense has been inconsistent. Surprisingly, the Avs are 2nd in the NHL in the power play.
Tonight's lineup will see Matt Duchene moved to left wing with Paul Stastny at center and Milan Hejduk at right wing. There is certainly plenty of talent and skill on this line as all three players have been NHL All-Stars. Both Duchene and Stastny have been much maligned early this season due to their output of 6 and 7 points respectively and a combined 4 goals between them through 11 games. Can and should Dutchy and Stats be better? Absolutely. There are always the cliches that "your best players have to be your best players" and all that, but I do feel that these two do not deserve as much blame as has been put upon them. Sure, Stastny and Duchene are not yet Sakic and Forsberg, Crosby and Malkin, or Toews and Kane, but I do feel that they are both top NHL center icemen and they are both capable of leading an NHL team's offense. However, with inconsistent an unreliable wing men on their lines, defenses have been able to focus on Duchene and Stastny without worrying about too much of a threat from wingers like Chuck Kobasew and Joakim Lindstrom. With that said, there will be no excuse from the new, stacked line of 9, 26, and 23.
Defenses will certainly have to respect the talent of the aforementioned line and those players' still certainly should be able to overcome teams' top defenses. This could also benefit the OWL line (O'Reilly, Winnik, and Landeskog), the line that has unquestionably been the Avs most consistent. With teams' top defenses forced to respect the "Dish Line" (DSH), this could open up more opportunities for this already productive line. The third line tonight will be Lindstrom-Galiardi-Jones. I like this line as well. I'm glad to see Galiardi out of the doghouse (for now) and getting a chance to be a top-line guy and even a chance to play at his natural position of center. He has speed, grit, and scoring capabilities. Hopefully he can put these talents together and get some results on the scoresheet! Jones can certainly be a scoring winger and Lindstrom may not get the point production he did last year in Sweden, but he can still be an effective NHL winger. This line has potential as well.
Tonight, the Avs are sure to face a tough test in the Dallas Stars. Dallas has been red-hot to start the season. They are 8-3 overall and hold a 5-1 record on home ice. The Avs will look to improve upon their impressive 6-1 road record tonight as well. After tonight however, the Avs play 11 of their next 14 games at home including an 8-game homestand at the end of November into December. One thing is for sure, the Avs MUST improve at home. 1-4 at home is not good and if the Avs do not get better on home ice, their impressive 5-0 road trip last month, will be meaningless. Hopefully, the Avs will continue their road success tonight and going forward and become a team that wins at home also!