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  • Avalanche struggle at home, Duchene getting back on track Print
    Northwest
    Written by Mike Cook   
    Tuesday, 08 November 2011 22:40

    Fans heading to the Pepsi Center to see the Colorado Avalanche have rarely left satisfied with the home team, a trend that lingers from the final three months of last season. While the Avalanche struggle on home ice, Matt Duchene has begun to find his game. 

    Mike Cook

    Playing in the Mile High City has been problematic for the Colorado Avalanche.

    The league’s best road team at 6-1-1 — including a franchise-best six-game road winning streak to start the season — Colorado is just 1-5 on home ice following Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Calgary.

    They have scored just seven goals in the six home games, while allowing 17. In their past 23 home games dating back to last season, the Avs have won just four times in the Pepsi Center.

    “We’ve played pretty well at home (this season) in some of the games we’ve lost," coach Joe Sacco said. "The game that we won actually might have been the one game we didn’t deserve to win. I don’t know what it is; we just haven’t really put the puck in the net as much as we’d like to at home on a consistent basis.”

    The question is why?

    "Whether we're feeling extra pressure or not, I think we've got to bear down more," said center Paul Stastny, who has one point at home.

    “There’s nothing that really stands out,” said winger David Jones, who has two points at home. “You’ve got to be a good team at home to compete and be there down the stretch. We’re just going to have to figure out what we’re doing on the road that we’re not doing at home.”

    Things looked good early Sunday when Stastny scored 34 seconds into the game, but a goal that bounced in off Curtis Glencross gave the Flames the winning tally. With Semyon Varlamov pulled and a penalty called on Calgary, the Avs had a 6-on-4 for the final 15.5 seconds of the game but didn’t get a shot on goal.

    "It (stinks) but we're going to stay with it and eventually start putting some goals in," said Matt Duchene, who has four points at home. "It's frustrating. We played a helluva third and just didn't find one."

    Although, the team has been in a tailspin, going 1-4-1 in its past six games, Duchene has re-discovered his offensive rhythm. Entering Tuesday, he has five points in hisMatt Duchene last two games and seven points in his last five.

    The third-year center recorded his first NHL hat trick and had a career-high four points in a 7-6 overtime loss at Dallas on Friday.

    "It’s too bad we lost,” Duchene said. “[But] it was hands down the most fun I’ve ever had playing a hockey game in my life.”

    Duchene, who leads the team with five goals and six assists, was briefly demoted to the team’s fourth line a couple of weeks ago.

    Duchene had three points in the team’s first four games, but just one assist in his next five outings. During that stretch he had just three shots on goal.

    Pessimists speculated that maybe he was trying to do too much, while optimists said it could simply be déjà vu. A year ago, Duchene scored just twice in his first 20 games, but went on to score a career-best 27 goals.

    “I think I was playing better even before (the line change)," Duchene said. "I felt I was right on the verge of that for a long time.”

    In the Dallas game he was moved to left wing on a line with Stastny and Milan Hejduk. The trio skated together again Sunday.

    “Matty was skating last game, he was skating the way that he can,” Sacco said before Sunday’s loss. “Once he started moving his feet the work ethic was there. … It’s certainly a step in the right direction for him.”

    Notes

    Calgary GM Jay Feaster, whose team is hanging around the .500 mark, has reportedly admitted he's burning up the phones talking to his counterparts. "I can assure you we don't have a lot of patience organizationally right now," Feaster said. … Entering Monday, the Flames had the NHL's second-best road power play at 33.3 percent (6-for-18), but the league's worst home power-play mark at 7.4 percent (2-for-27). … Calgary won 2-1 at Colorado on Sunday and returns to Denver on Saturday. The Flames have seven straight wins against the Avalanche, including two wins this season. … Calgary backup G Henrik Karlsson set a new career high for shots faced (44) and saves (42) in a 2-1 loss to Buffalo on Friday. … The Avalanche are 6-1-1 in one-goal games. … Colorado’s Peter Mueller, who has missed the past 10 games with a head injury, has been practicing with the team but did not play Tuesday at Detroit. … Colorado has given up nine power play goals in its last seven games. … Edmonton’s six-game winning streak ended with a 4-2 loss Saturday in Phoenix. The Oilers allowed just six goals during the winning streak. … Edmonton D Ryan Whitney missed the first four games of the year while recovering from ankle surgery. After four games on the ice, he’s missed the past two games with a knee injury. …  RW Ales Hemsky, out since Oct. 13 with a shoulder injury, may return Tuesday. “I think I’m ready,” he said after Monday’s practice. … Minnesota started a five-game road trip Tuesday in Calgary. … Entering the game, Minnesota had killed off 14 straight short-handed situations. … Coach Mike Yeo insists there is no goalie controversy in the State of Hockey, even though backup Josh Harding has been in net for all games of the team’s four-game winning streak and was named the league’s first star for last week. Including Saturday’s 2-1 win over St. Louis, Harding, who missed last season following knee surgery, had stopped all but three of the 131 shots he’d faced for a .977 save percentage and a 0.75 goals-against average. … LW Guillaume Latendresse has 22 goals in 43 career home games with the Wild, but just nine in 35 road contests. … Vancouver scored five times on the power play to beat Chicago 6-2 Sunday. One was by David Booth, his first since being acquired from Florida. Vancouver ranks second in the league with a 26.4 percent power-play success rate. Colorado is clicking at 26.7 percent… Roberto Luongo made 38 saves in Sunday’s win. … D Alex Edler, who had two helpers, has nine points in his last four games. … Vancouver LW Alex Burrows sat out Sunday’s game with a back injury suffered Friday in St. Louis, but the injury is not considered serious. Although he took part in the morning skate, D Sami Salo missed his third straight game with a groin injury. He, too, isn’t expected to be out much longer.

    Photos by Getty Images

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    Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 November 2011 02:48