The Colorado Avalanche figured this road trip would be an early indicator of how far they have come from last season’s disappointing finish.
They have to be excited about the results.
The Avalanche close a seven-game road trip Wednesday seeking a fifth straight win when they visit the struggling Minnesota Wild, who return home from a terrible road trip of their own.
After finishing last season with the worst record in the Western Conference, Colorado (6-1-1) appeared to be in for a daunting challenge with its longest road swing of the season coming in its opening month. The Avalanche have passed the test, as solid goaltending has propelled them to a 4-1-1 mark on the trip and a tie with Calgary for the early conference lead with 13 points.
Craig Anderson(notes), who signed a free agent deal with Colorado after playing 31 games as a backup with Florida last season, is 6-1-1 with a 2.09 goals-against average. He made 28 saves - 21 in the first two periods - in a 4-3 shootout victory at Detroit on Saturday.
“He’s been very solid so far,” coach Joe Sacco told the Avalanche’s official Web site of Anderson. “Craig has given us a chance to win every game and that’s all you can ask out of you goaltender.”
Colorado, which was 14-24-3 on the road last year, is off to its best start since going 6-0-2 to open 2000-01 - the season of its last Stanley Cup championship. While Anderson has played a big part in the success, so has an improved offense. After averaging a league-low 2.4 goals per game in 2008-09, the Avalanche have scored four or more three times in the first six games of the road trip.
“It’s a good start,” Sacco said. “I’m proud of the effort we’ve given night-in and night-out. We have a long season to go, but we’re pleased with where we are as a team right now.”
While the Avalanche have enjoyed an outstanding trip, Minnesota’s play away from home has dropped the team to the bottom of the Northwest Division.
The Wild (1-6-0), who had big expectations under new coach Todd Richards, are coming off an 0-5 road trip, concluding with a 2-1 loss at Vancouver on Saturday in which they were outshot 39-18.
“There’s not a guy in here that’s not frustrated and disappointed with this road trip but there’s no sense crying about it,” veteran forward Owen Nolan(notes) said. “We’ve got to move on, clear our heads, get a couple of good practices in and make sure we have a good homestand. It happens whenever a team changes its style: some catch on quicker than others. I think we’re right there.”
Richards was expected to install a more high-scoring offense, but Minnesota totaled 10 goals during the trip while allowing 20. Injuries didn’t help, as the Wild finished the trip without forwards Martin Havlat(notes), Petr Sykora(notes), Pierre-Marc Bouchard(notes) and Cal Clutterbuck(notes). Havlat (groin), who recorded five points in his first three games, practiced Tuesday and is expected to be back on the ice for this contest. Sykora (groin) is unlikely to play, however, and Bouchard (ankle) and Clutterbuck (concussion) are also expected to remain sidelined.
Minnesota went 4-1-1 against Colorado last season and is 9-1-2 in its last 12 home meetings with the Avalanche. Mikko Koivu(notes), who was named the Wild’s captain Tuesday, had six points against Colorado in the 2008-09 season series.