Avs battle Blue Jackets in Columbus
The Colorado Avalanche aren't ready to give up on their postseason quest. Coming off a victory over one of the teams they are chasing, the Avs look for another key victory this evening against a Columbus Blue Jackets club that has begun the reshaping of is roster.
Following a 1-2-1 road trip, Colorado returned home Wednesday to take on Los Angeles and jumped on the Kings with three first-period goals en route to a 4-1 victory. Paul Stastny, Mark Olver and Jay McClement all scored in the opening frame and Stastny added his second goal of the game in the second period, while Semyon Varlamov made 32 saves.
The Avalanche swept their season series with the Kings and pulled within two points of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. However, Colorado still has three teams ahead of it as Dallas, Calgary and Los Angeles are all tied for the eighth spot.
"From start to finish tonight we played our game. We kept attacking even after we were up four goals," said Stastny. "Our defense played really well and created a lot of offense for us."
Colorado, which will play in Detroit on Saturday, won in the debut of new forward Steve Downie, who was acquired from Tampa Bay on Tuesday for defenseman Kyle Quincey. Downie registered one shot in 16 minutes and 20 seconds of ice time, logging two hits.
"I'm going to bring grit," Downie said before the game. "I'm going to try and play the body as much as I can and chip in with the offensive part of the game too."
The Avalanche did lose defenseman Erik Johnson to back spasms in the first period and he is questionable for tonight.
While Colorado is on the fringe in the playoff picture, Columbus is last in the NHL with 43 points and has already begun to make some deals ahead of Monday's trade deadline. The Blue Jackets started the fire sale by dealing center Antoine Vermette to Phoenix on Wednesday for a pair of draft picks and goaltender Curtis McElhinney, but an even bigger deal went down on Thursday evening.
Columbus sent center Jeff Carter, whom general manager Scott Howson paid a hefty price to acquire this offseason, to the Kings for defenseman Jack Johnson and either a 2012 or 2013 first-round pick.
The 25-year-old Johnson has eight goals and 24 points in 61 games this season, while Carter had logged 15 goals and 25 points in 39 games during an injury- plagued campaign. Carter was acquired from the Flyers this past summer for Jakub Voracek as well as the eighth overall pick of the most recent draft in addition to a third-round selection.
"Jack is a talented young defenseman who will strengthen our defense corps and we are very excited to add him to our organization," said Howson. "We are committed to re-shaping our club and moving forward. Adding a player like Jack and a first-round pick are important parts of that process."
Johnson should be an immediate upgrade for the Blue Jackets at the blue line and the club is also expected to get another big offseason pickup, James Wisniewski back after the defenseman missed two games because of a groin strain.
Carter did have an impact in his final game with Columbus, highlighting his 500th NHL game with his fourth career hat trick in a 6-3 win over the Sharks on Tuesday that snapped a two-game slide.
Rick Nash, David Savard and R.J. Umberger all finished with a goal and an assist, while Vinny Prospal added three assists and Derick Brassard had two helpers. Steve Mason made 38 saves in the victory.
The Avalanche have won two straight and eight of their past nine versus the Blue Jackets, though the clubs haven't faced each other since opening up the four-game season series on Oct. 12 in Columbus.
The Avs notched a 3-2 shootout win in that encounter, giving them a victory in four of their past five in Columbus. That defeat was also part of the Blue Jackets' 0-7-1 start to the season.